It was not totally unexpected. It could not possibly be a big surprise to anyone. The loss to the 15th placed Hurricanes is by no means shocking. What it does represent instead is a disappointment of colossal proportions. Certainly the red-hot Habs could and should have been able to handle the Carolina squad but as they have demonstrated so many times recently, victory for our home team is rather elusive in games that should be won…in games that must be won. Certainly it is unfair to criticize a team that won four straight as your Montreal Canadiens did and i must apologize for that. It is not reasonable of me or of anyone for that matter to expect that a desperate team will win each and every one of its remaining games, but to fall to the Hurricanes just seems inexcusable when so much is at stake.
The matchup was a bit like a Star-Trek episode where the Enterprise enters an alternate universe…the elements are all there but there is something not quite right about the whole thing. Take, for example, that Montreal which normally is successful in killing off roughly 90 % of penalties, allowed 2 power play goals against in 8 shorthanded situations. Atypical. Certainly not the kind of success that the team has been enjoying in this area all season. Another dead-giveaway that something was off-kilter is the fact that your Habs scored twice on the powerplay…twice!!!!! Bizarre…i am not complaining about that but it just makes me wonder if that really was the Montreal Canadiens on the ice. While we are at it, who was the man behind the mask in the Canadiens`net tonight? He did not always look like the Carey Price of late who had two shutouts in his previous 4 outings while allowing only 4 goals in the entire stretch.
Carolina went up 1-0 early in the first on a tip-in by Jiri Tlusty. Price had no chance on that one. The original shot, a wrister from the blueline was redirected multiple times and ultimately Tlusty was credited with his 13th of the season. It appeared to me that every player who was on the ice for their shift was between the original shooter at the point and the Canadiens`netminder. Tough one to see for sure…The Hurricanes doubled their lead to 2-0 midway through the 2nd period when, of all people, Jaroslav Spacek sunk one on the Carolina powerplay.
Give the Canadiens credit for coming back. The Habs scored three unanswered goals in the second period to actually gain a 3-2 lead. The 2nd and 3rd goals were on the power play which is finally showing signs of life. Tomas Plekanec, Eric Cole, and David Desharnais were the contributors, the latter two scoring on the powerplay.. Clicking at 13.7%, the Habs have moved up from 30th to 27th spot in terms of scoring with the man advantage. While I am delighted that the Montreal powerplay is showing signs of improvement , the physical, hard-hitting contest might have been more fun to watch if 16 minor penalties had not been called (8 to each team). The chippiness and unsportsmanlike nature of this one did detract a bit from my enjoyment of the event.
Once again Le Tricolore failed to hold onto a lead going into the 3rd period. It was Carolina`s turn to score 3 unanswered goals (one of them an empty-netter with Price out for the extra attacker). Their comeback began with a momentum-building shorthanded goal 3:15 into the first by Captain Eric Staal. Give the assist to Tomas Kaberle on that one folks. Just a shade over 5 minutes later, with Chris Campoli out for slashing, Jamie McBain scored on the powerplay to give the visitors the lead for good. Staal, who had a 3 point night, popped in the insurance goal with 36 seconds remaining on the clock.
As alluded to earlier, Carey Price who has been on fire lately sporting a 1.00GAA in his last 4 starts, was beaten 4 times on 34 shots. His save percentage for the night was a paltry .882…not exactly the numbers that he has to put up if Montreal is to win the skirmish. Certainly, there have been far worse goaltending displays but Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, fairly or unfairly, count on Carey to be a tad more heroic than he was against Carolina.
I was a bit disappointed that neither Ryan White nor Ian Schultz were in the lineup last night despite being called up from Hamilton. Hopefully we will catch a glimpse of one or both of these players on Wednesday when the Bruins pay a visit.
Montreal remains in 11th place in the East, seven points behind 8th-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs which holds a game in hand. Of great concern is the fact that 3 teams, namely Tampa Bay, New York Islanders, and the Buffalo Sabres are all just one point behind the Habs. Each of the above-named squads enjoys 2 games in hand. The lead held by the Canadiens over the last-place Carolina Hurricanes has dwindled to a mere 2 points. This one certainly remains a tough loss to swallow.
Here is to hoping that this loss does not shatter the ability of Nos Glorieux to come out hard and fast against the 4th-placed overall Bruins. There is lots of hockey left to go and our beloved team must play every minute as if it were the last…the very simple, yet very tall order that Billy Bob Thornton delivers to his high school football team in Texas comes to mind: “Be Perfect“.