OK Folks, let`s get this out of the way right off the bat: Everyone who knew that Michael Cammalleri would score in his first game back playing for The Calgary Flames raise your hand (in fact he scored the one and only goal that The Flames put in the net tonight). Now: Everyone who wishes that we still had Number 13 in the lineup at least for the shootout keep your hands up!!! My hand is still hovering above my head…am i the only one? Fine, I am going to leave it at that…but not before adding that it is important that Rene Bourque have the same impact on Sunday when he makes his debut with The Habs.
I would also be remiss not to mention that the loss was quite significant in that Montreal is now 1-6 in the shootout! Surely this is an area that the coaches might want to concentrate more on in practice. Imagine now if Montreal had won even 3 of the 6 games that they lost in the shootout. With those additional points in hand, that 8th and final playoff berth might not seem nearly as unattainable as it does now. With the victory, Ottawa improved to 5-2 when involved in a shootout scenario.
On a positive note, for the second consecutive game your Habs skated with the highly talented opposition and, dare I say it, even dominated. Their play in both the 1st and 2nd periods could most certainly be described as inspired. Benoit Brunet of RDS compared it to fresh, oxygen-rich air that surrounds a team when a coaching change or impact player trade is made. In fact, after two frames, Montreal held a 21-13 advantage in the shots on goal department with many of their shots being legitimate scoring chances. A porous Ottawa defensive corps was bailed out by the brilliance of Craig Anderson on more than one occasion.
While his numbers are less than stellar on the season as a whole, Anderson has kept his GAA under 2 for the month of January. Pretty impressive given the extent to which he is abandoned by his offensively-minded defence. The mindset has paid off, however, as the Ottawa Senators defence has in fact produced 110 points (prior to the game) which ranks them 2nd in the league behind Vancouver in that category. The involvement of the defensemen, as far as point production is concerned, represents a key factor in explaining how the Sens are 14 points improved this year over the same timeframe last season.
After having netted a disallowed goal in the first period (retracted based on an apparent goaltender interference -an infraction which to add insult to injury resulted in a penalty to AK46), Montreal took the lead early in the third on a shorthanded goal by an absolutely re-born and incredibly energized Tomas Plekanec. Could there have been tension between Number 14 and Number 13? The former had mentioned that he would never approach the coach re: his allotted playing time and line pairings; and may have been indirectly highlighting Cammalleri`s selfish-nature with that statement. Perhaps Cammalleri`s departure will represent that elusive X-Factor which will allow the Montreal Canadiens squad to play like the talented team that it truly is.
Regardless, Ottawa responded with two unanswered goals the second of which came on a powerplay while the aforementioned Plekanec was serving four minutes for high-sticking with roughly six minutes left to play in regulation time. Kyle Turris had scored the first and Jason Spezza was responsible for the goal with the man advantage.
It appeared as if Montreal had managed to blow yet another 3rd period lead but faith was restored with 38 seconds remaining. With an extra man on for the pulled goalie Carey Price, Max Pacioretty scored on a play started by centreman David Desharnais. Naturally the Bell Centre erupted but the joy was rather short-lived. Josh Gorges, on the subsequent play was called for delay of game when he cleared the puck over the boards. Montreal would have to play a significant portion of the OT shorthanded. As you know from the headline, the Habs survived the 5-minute overtime period but eventually succumbed to the Sens in the shootout.
Clearly, as far as offensive prowess is concerned, Montreal is outclassed by Ottawa. Randy Cunneyworth, in the shootout, opted to go with Eller, Kaberle (an odd choice by this author`s limited perspective), and Max Pacioretty. Neither of the Habs was able to put one in behind Craig Anderson. Price, to his great credit given his struggles in this game deciding tactic, managed to stop Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza before being beaten 5-hole by Daniel Alfredson (who is now 4 for 4 in the shootout).
You know what, though? I can accept this loss. I can accept it because my team played a solid sixty minutes of engaged and entertaining hockey. They played as if they cared. They played as if they belonged. They showed heart, resilience, and flashes of brilliance. Bring on The Rangers!
Things of Note:
- Scott Gomez made a return to the lineup tonight. He had been out with a groin injury since November 23rd and missed 21 games. He was held pointless against the Senators.
- Andrei Markov is said by the team at RDS to be somwehere between 4 and 6 weeks away from playing an actual game.
- Chris Campoli and Yannick Weber played while Alexei Yemelin was a healthy scratch.
- Montreal went 0-5 on the power play
- Montreal went 6 for 7 on the penalty-kill
- Montreal remains in 12th place, 8 points behind 8th place Washington Capitals who now have 2 games in hand
- The next contest is against the New York Rangers in Montreal on Sunday at 7pm