In retrospect it seems almost scripted that the division-worst Anaheim Ducks, on a 7-game losing streak, would beat the always-fragile Habs. It was a tough game for Montreal, who ended up losing by the score of 4-1. They were without the skill and size of Max Pacioretty, who was serving the first of his three-game suspension. Louis Leblanc made his NHL debut. Peter Budaj got the start in nets for Montreal, in the first of a three-game California road trip.
The game didn’t start badly for the Canadiens. After a few minutes of feeling each other out, a nice move by Brian Gionta to keep the puck in the offensive zone set up Tomas Plekanec. Plekanec then pulled off a nice spin move of his own to send the puck to Andrei Kostitsyn, who sailed it past Jonas Hiller for his sixth of the season. It was only Kostitsyn’s second game back after missing almost a month to injury. The Habs looked good, everyone working hard, Budaj made a couple good saves. And then it went south.
Anaheim took three consecutive penalties, starting with Francois Beauchemin going off at the thirteen minute mark of the opening period. The Canadiens proceeded to fail to gain the zone on numerous tries, and were incapable of setting up. The Habs were knocked off the puck incredibly easily and failed to get good chances in six minutes with the man-advantage. With three successful penalty-kills and morale high, Anaheim’s Corey Perry took advantage of a Hal Gill turnover to send the puck across the slot to an open Ryan Getzlaf with nineteen seconds left. Tie game.
The Canadiens took two penalties in the opening minutes of the second period, the first, a minor to Frederic St. Denis but then Plekanec went off for four minutes for high-sticking and the Ducks took advantage of the short 5-on-3 to take a 2-1 lead. Later in the period, the Habs failed to convert again on two power-plays, and the lack of the special teams’ effectiveness made all the difference.
Things did not get better in the third. While Raphael Diaz was serving a penalty for interference, Corey Perry deflected a Beauchemin shot from the point to put the Ducks ahead 3-1. An empty-net goal by Niklas Hagman was just the icing on the Ducks’ first win since November 11.
HW 3 Stars of the Night
First Star – Peter Budaj: This loss was not his fault. Lack of offence and a pretty bad defence ensured that.
Second Star – Andrei Kostitsyn : Good for AK, getting back to normal with a beautiful goal in the first and three solid hits. The Canadiens really missed him.
Third Star – Hal Gill: Earns third star honours for his eleven blocked shots.
Notes: This was a demoralizing loss for the Habs. The lack of success on the PP is killing them. The youth on defence are incapable of playing like veterans, and it shows. The offence is struggling terribly, and there is just a general malaise that settles in among the players when they’re behind. … Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle was fired after the win and Bruce Boudreau, formerly of the Washington Capitals, is replacing him. No word yet on why Jacques Martin still has a job.