The Montreal Canadiens faced the Washington Capitals in front of a sell-out crowd at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night. While the Capitals shut out the Habs by the score of 3-0, they did not appear to be vengeful after the playoff elimination this spring.
The first period started out tentative, with both teams skating around each other slowly. The Habs attempted to play better than they have been, but it was a fragile illusion. They failed to take advantage of two power plays in the first five minutes, with 6 shots on goal. Jay Beagle scored his second of the year at 16:20 with Yannick Weber and Maxim Lapierre behind the net. David Steckel thought he made it 2-0 (when in reality it was Jaroslav Spacek who shoves the puck in with his glove) but the goal was waved off without review. Off a beautiful pass by Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green snapped one past Price at 19:22 to leave the Habs with a two-goal deficit going into the first intermission. No one covered Green on the play.
There was no scoring in the second, with a frustrated Canadiens team taking three penalties, including a too-many-on-the-ice call at 12:58. There were chances for both teams, but Price and Varlamov were equally great.
In the third, Tomas Plekanec unhelpfully took a four-minute penalty at 4:19 for high-sticking Mike Green and drawing blood. The Canadiens remained perfect on the PK, and the only goal of the period was Alex Ovechkin’s empty-netter with half-a-minute left in the game.
HW 3 Stars of the Night
First Star – Carey Price:The first goal was weak-ish, and he had no chance on the second one. But he made spectacular saves early in the game (against Ovechkin), and kept the score close till the end, including an excellent glove save on Jason Chimera midway through the second.
Second Star – Lars Eller: Eller had two great chances in front of Varlamov with 12:03 left in the third, and continued to generate offensive chances throughout the game, which is good news, given his 10:53 TOI.
Third Star – Andrei Kostitsyn:He had 5 shots on goal and was one of the very few Montreal forwards to drive to the net relentlessly and try to create some offence. With little help from his teammates, nothing resulted.
Honourable Mention: – Yannick Weber: Played 19:27, including almost 6 minutes on the PP, he had 4 shots, 3 hits and 3 blocked shots. Weber had a much better game against the Capitals than he has on this dismal road trip.
Notes: Josh Gorges watched this one from the side as he took a well-deserved night off … P.K. Subban did not cost the team any goals directly and played well against the Capitals, he was only a -1 with 4 hits … Scott Gomez went 0-12 in the faceoff circle, a completely baffling and unacceptable stat … I mean, even Travis Moen won his one faceoff! … The total lack of offence these past two games is growing increasingly worrying.
However badly the team has played in the past few years, I don’t remember a single season where they failed to come back after a first period deficit. Is this an expression of lack of team character, or lack of team identity? Indeed, they seem to have lost their identity, the very one we were raving about early in the season. They failed to cash rebounds throughout the game. There were two powerplays in each period, and the Habs could not score a single goal. There was a lack of heart on the ice, and it showed in every failed play.
Perhaps James Wisnewski will help the Habs out on the PP, and he will definitely shore up the defence, but the Canadiens have got to get themselves together and focus on what’s been happening on this road trip. Now on to Florida, and two games in the Sunshine State. The Habs might yet soak up some helpful Vitamin D rays.