Following a 7-0 spanking against the division rivals Boston Bruins on Saturday, the Habs were back at the booth to welcome the red hot Washington Capitals. The Capitals had been shut down by the Ottawa Senators 24 hours earlier and were playing in their second games in as many days. The Habs' fans expected their team to come out strong against a tired bunch. Montreal had failed to score in their previous two games and showed no emotions or grit against the Boston Bruins on Thursday Night after a half-hearted effort against the Buffalo Sabres two days earlier.
The Habs started the game where they had left against the Bruins. In spite of playing in front of the home crowd, the Canadiens' team once again failed to show any emotions or desire to win the game. Montreal's offense continued their lethargy after scoring eight against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon. Their goal less streak has reached a scary 186:05 minutes. The Canadiens haven't been shutdown three times in a row since their 1948-1949 season.
The Washington Capitals pounced earlier on the Canadiens when at 1:24 of the match, Marco Sturm beat Travis Moen to the puck to eventually beat Price, making it 1-0 for his team. The play started after Nicklas Backstorm caught Hal Gill on the Washington blue line forcing a 2-1 offensive rush. He opted to take a shot on Carey Price who made the initial save but Sturm won his battle to the puck and scored on the rebound for an early lead in the match stunning the crowd at the Bell Center.
Once again, Montreal's offense struggled with the puck and found it tough to generate anything in the offensive zone. Washington outshot the Canadiens 12-3 in the first frame and the fact that Montreal handed the away team with three first-period power-plays didn't help the home team either. Montreal continued being indisciplined and handed a fourth straight man-advantage to the visitors who failed to take advantage of the extra man. Carey Price did a great job turning away the Washington shooters to keep this a close affair, allowing his team a chance to break out of their scoring slump.
While Montreal did a good job of killing the four man-advantages they handed to the Capitals, their power-play continued struggling and once again went 0-3. The Canadiens' players failed to be creative with the puck turning it over again and again. It became more and more apparent that the team was playing in the image of their coach, who also failed to adjust as the game progressed. It is one thing to modify the lines during the game but the failure to adapt to the game and not make changes where needed was the worst enemy of the Habs on this night. During Tomas Plekanec's absence, we saw James Wisniewski and P.K. Subban doing a great job on the point and with Plekanec's return, Subban was moved to the second power play line with very limited time. It was very apparent that Plekanec was not completely in the game form yet and the coach refused to make necessary changes.
Just like in previous games, Montreal made life very easy for the oppositions goaltender, taking only 18 shots towards Braden Holtby, the lowest game shot total Montreal had against any opposition at home-ice. Holtby had to be at his best when he stopped Halpern's shot from the high slot after a rare turnover by the Capitals. The Capitals' goaltender also had to thank some of the Canadiens' shooters, and Michael Cammalleri in particular, who missed the net from a close range. Holtby later made a good save on Brian Gionta during a Montreal power play.
Carey Price, playing in his 67th game of the season, the most of any Habs goalie since Jose Theodore in 2003-04, made 31 saves for his team. He was not able to explain the reason for his teammates' struggles to put the puck in the net. "I think we just used them all up in Minnesota, but we've just got to get back to basics and we can't dwell on this," he said. "We've just got to pick our heads up and know we can do it."
Alexander Semin took away any hopes of a comeback when he beat Price on a 2-0 offensive rush, late in the third. Brent Sopel fumbled with a bouncing puck on Washington's blue line and slipped while rushing back and Backstrom and Semin broke away towards Price. Price had no chance on the shot after Semin took a perfect feed from Backstorm. Even though the Canadiens played better in the third, they were unable to finish their plays.
The only thing the home fans had to cheer about happened with less than a minute remaining in the game. With Price sitting on the bench for an extra attacker, Gionta made a huge sliding save on Backstorm who was so sure about scoring in an empty net. Gionta who was not happy with the effort after the game said "It's easy to point to offense for not scoring but it's a reflection of our overall game right now."
Montreal will have to wait till Tuesday to see if they are capable of improving on their overall game. They will be receiving the visit of the struggling Atlanta Thrashers to the Bell Center before flying to Carolina for a very crucial match against the Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
HiD Three Stars
- Nicklas Backstrom
- Carey Price
- Braden Holtby
HiD Turning Point
Washington jumped on a early defensive hiccup by the Canadiens to take the 1-0 lead in the match.