Montreal, a team with just a single win in their first five games this year would surely come out flying
against the Penguins on Thursday, right? Not a chance; Montreal looked awful from top to bottom with little emotion and minimal effort,
losing by a 3-1 score. Two players returned to their respective lineups Thursday night, Brooks Orpik for Pittsburgh and Mike Cammalleri for the Canadiens. Cammalleri finished the night a -1, Orpik a +1 but neither was much of a factor in the game.
The first big scoring chance of the game was created by Lars Eller when he found Erik Cole wide open in the slot, Marc-Andre Fleury however answered the bell with a big pad save. Moments later Carey Price was equal to the task making a couple saves during a goal mouth scramble.
Midway through the first, NHL shot leader James “the real deal” Neal took a share of the goal scoring lead as he ripped a shot off the post, off the back of Price and just over the goal line. P.K. Subban did attempt to clear the puck just before it crossed the line but he was a moment too late. After the goal Jacques Martin brought out the line scrambler and over the next 10 minutes he attempted to put together every permutation possible of three forwards. The Canadiens were out shot 16-8 by the Penguins in the first.
Scott Gomez left the bench twice to go to the Canadiens dressing room and did not return to the game. It is being reported as an upper body injury as he took an awkward hit in the early stages of the game. His season has not started well with just one assist in 5 games and a -1 rating.
Carey Price kept the Canadiens in the game early in the second with two big saves, one of which was on a breakaway by Steve Sullivan. But with Montreal running around in the defensive zone, Penguins forward Joe Vitale was able to deflect a Matt Niskanen shot past Price to double the lead. Montreal was awarded two power plays just after the goal but barely mustered up a shot or much of a scoring chance.
The third period was more boring than the 2nd and a game which already had zero flow also lacked emotion in the final frame. Arron Asham added a third goal for Pittsburgh as he batted in his first of the season from the slot. Montreal spent the majority of the third going through the motions coasting in their own zone, not hitting a soul, looking out-matched by a severely undermanned Penguins squad. Mathieu Darche did however manage to spoil the shutout with 96 seconds left; the goal was awarded to Gionta but I believe that will be changed.
In closing, I know many have begun to be or are on the brink of panic and maybe it is time for that… but it is still just 6 games in. To put things into perspective there was a stretch last year where the Canadiens lost 9 of 12 in December and early January picking up just 7 points in that span. There are 5 games left this month followed by 5 days off, it will be very interesting to see what results the Canadiens pick up during that stretch. If they continue on this downward trend they won’t be able to have any winter slump and still make the playoffs. If they do they will finish much closer to 15th than 8th.
Kirk Muller can you come back from Milwaukee and give this team some life?
HW 3 Stars of the Night
1. Carey Price: 29 saves, .906 save %
Well, on a night where it is tough to pick three stars might as well give on to the goalie who tried to keep this team in the game. Carey stopped 3 breakaways and with only 1 goal for, did not have the support required to win.
2. Mathieu Darche 1 assist (could be changed to a goal), +1 rating,
3 shots, 4 hits, 2/2 faceoffs, TOI 13:09
When Mathieu Darche is your best forward something is wrong. Very wrong. He did break the shutout and did have an unsuccessful breakaway attempt earlier in the game which was thwarted by Marc-Andre Fleury. Darche also had 3 shots and 4 hits.
3. Lars Eller 0 points, even rating, 2 shots, TOI 15:06
Lars was the most creative and involved of the offensive forwards he made a plethora of moves in the offensive zone to create space and he did look dangerous at times.