Mired in a miserable two-month stretch, the Montreal Canadiens remain positive despite feeling a sense of urgency to save their fading season.
Expecting to have ailing captain Max Pacioretty in the lineup, the visiting Canadiens look to begin a post-All-Star break turnaround Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Montreal (24-22-1) has gone from the top spot in the Eastern Conference to three points out of the final wild-card berth thanks to a 5-18-1 slide. The club went into the break after back-to-back 5-2 losses to Columbus, the East's worst team.
"We haven't found the answer yet, but that doesn't mean we won't find it," forward Brendan Gallagher told the Canadiens' official website. "Like I said, the guys here still believe and care."
But the talk isn't the only thing that needs to be positive.
"This is the time to stand up and push back," Gallagher said. "We cannot take this anymore. This has to be the end of this. Nobody likes this feeling right now. We all hate the results that we're getting, and it's up to us to change them."
Star goaltender Carey Price won't be the answer while still dealing with a leg injury that's kept him out since Nov. 25 - seven days before the collapse began. Price was 10-2-0 with a 2.06 goals-against average, and Montreal has yielded an average of 3.1 goals in the 27 games since he last played.
The Canadiens have already lost more player games to injuries (102) than all of 2014-15 (88), but they believe Pacioretty won't miss time despite taking a slap shot to the face last Tuesday against the Blue Jackets. Though Pacioretty doesn't have a point in the last four games, he leads the team with 19 goals and is obviously an important all-around presence.
"He's the leader of this hockey club. He draws a lot of attention from the opposition, but if we don't have him, we have to move on without him," Gallagher said. "Nobody feels sorry for us right now, so we can't feel sorry for ourselves. We can't well up or sit around."
Gallagher is second on the team with 12 goals but has one in the last nine games, and the Canadiens have averaged 1.8 in their last 19. They're 1-6-1 since beating New Jersey on Jan. 6 for their most recent regulation victory. The previous night, Montreal fell 4-3 at Philadelphia in the teams' only meeting of the season.
That began a 5-0-1 stretch for the Flyers (21-18-8), but they followed that run with a three-game skid before Wednesday's 4-3 overtime victory at NHL-leading Washington. Philadelphia is five points out of the East's final wild-card spot.
"We're playing the right way, and we can't get frustrated when we don't get the results," All-Star Claude Giroux told the Flyers' official website. "We just have to be patient with it and wait for our chances."
Jakub Voracek has recorded half of his eight goals in the last seven games along with six assists. Teammate Brayden Schenn has five goals and six assists in the past 11, highlighted by a three-point performance against Montreal. Schenn has three goals with seven assists in his last eight against the Canadiens.
Though bruising winger John Scott's feel-good All-Star Game story culminated with an MVP award Sunday, it doesn't appear Montreal will recall him from their AHL affiliate any time soon.
Philadelphia is 6 for 18 on the power play in the last four games after previously converting an East-worst 15.3 percent. Montreal is 8 for 80 since Dec. 3.