With three games remaining before the All-Star break the Canadiens find themselves ten points behind the eighth place Florida Panthers. The Panthers have two games in hand. Those three games are Pittsburgh and Toronto on the road and Detroit at home. Not easy. Although they won’t admit it in the dressing room, if the Canadiens are ten points out at the break their chances of a playoff berth go from slim to nil. Bet the mortgage on it.
Adding It Up -
“Beyond Frustration” – The words of Carey Price after the game. There could be an argument that the first two goals scored against him were stoppable. There were extenuating circumstances. Josh Gorges, the league’s leading shot-blocker, failed to block Mathieu Perreault’s shot and Price couldn’t track it through the screen. Marcus Johansson let a flick shot go under close checking from Andrei Kostitsyn. Looked more fluke than good management to me.
Go Figure- From the time of the second goal at 8:23 of the first period, the Capitals managed only twelve shots, only six of them at even strength.
Getting It Out of the Way – In the second minute, the Capitals sent Matt Hendricks out to exact retribution for Rene Bourque’s Jan. 3rd hit on Niklas Backstrom. Bourque was waiting for him and clearly won the fight. From that point onward, the teams stuck to hockey.
“The Sore Point”- The words Randy Cunneyworth used to describe the performance of his power play, made more frustrating because the power play is his coaching responsibility. The Canadiens had the man advantage a total of 11:59 and went 0-for-7 dropping deeper into last place in the NHL. Cunneyworth tinkered with it all night long. The Desharnais/Cole/Pacioretty line logged the most power play minutes but at times it was Plekanec/Kostitsyn/Gomez; then Gomez with Plekanec and Cole; Plekanec/Pacioretty/Desharnais and Desharnais/Pacioretty and Kostitsyn. Nothing worked. On defence the go-to pairing was Kaberle and Weber logging twice as much time as Subban /Diaz.
Too Little, Too Late – The Canadiens managed 14 shots on Michal Neuvirth through the first two period. The offense finally woke up in the third with Neuvirth forced to make seventeen saves. The story of the third period was more the defence in front of him. The Canadiens attempted 36 shots in the final period, matching their total for the first two periods. Of the 36 shot attempts, the Capitals defence blocked 13. Weber was blocked four times.
That Kind of Night - Couldn’t ask for more out of Desharnais/Cole/Pacioretty. They all logged over twenty minutes. Thirteen shots on goal. Eleven solid scoring chances. And nothing to show. As usual, Cole led he way with five chances.
No Results - Scott Gomez was very good again. He started the night on the fourth line with Blunden and Darche and then he was all over the lot. He was effective wherever he was placed. Five shots on goal, three more blocked. Two excellant scoring chances. Can his first goal of the season be far away? The good news is, he’s shooting the puck.
Noteworthy - Rene Bourque again rewarded the team with the kind of hockey for which the Canadiens acquired him. One wonders how the game might have gone had he not hit the post on that breakaway early in the second period with the score 2-0. He also had a great chance with five minutes left on a Gomez setup. I thought P.K. Subban was terrific. He had everything going in this game. Tomas Plekanec had 25 shifts on five different line combinations. He kept playing his usual effective two-way game. For someone with only seven minutes of ice time, Mathieu Darche seemed to be involved in a lot of stuff, most of it good. On the down side, he was serving a four minute penalty when the Capitals scored their third goal.
From the Scoresheet - Time on Ice-Forwards -Tomas Plekanec (21:03); TOI-Defence – P.K. Subban (23:44); Shots on Goal – Max Pacioretty (6), Cole, Gomez (5); Hits – Lars Eller (4), Moen, Blunden, Cole (3); Blocked Shots – Five at 2 each. Faceoffs Won/Lost – Plekanec 55% (11/9)