About last night …

Let’s get one thing straight: Canadiens were beaten by the Sharks, not the zebras.

Referees Tim Peel and Chris Rooney were not great last night. They called some softies. They overlooked stuff that could have been called – including the systematic harassment of Carey Price.

But the Canadiens had seven power plays – and scored on exactly none of them.

The Sharks scored twice with the man advantage, and there’s your winning margin in a 6-4 game. 

With the exception of some big stops during a 5-on-3 San Jose power play in the first period, Price had a bad night. On both of Joe Thornton’s goals, Price was flopping around his net like the reincarnation of David Aebischer. But the worst was yet to come.

After Tomas Plekanec one-timed a perfect Alex Kovalev pass to make it 3-3 in the second period and put some wind in Canadiens tattered sails, Price was beaten on a 60-foot softie by SJ goon Jody Shelley. It was arguably the worst and undoubtedly the most deflating goal Canadiens have allowed this season.

So the Sharks added another chapter to the book-in-progress on Carey Price: if you knock him around, his concentration suffers – big time.

But the kid is 20 years old. He’s a work in progress. The big question is will Price bounce back in Phoenix on Thursday, because I think Guy Carbonneau has to start him to rebuild his confidence.

 

Lousy refreeing. Sub-par goaltending. Ineffective PP. But there was another reason Canadiens lost: San Jose played better.

A lot better.

The Sharks are fast and physical. They wreaked havoc in the offensive zone.

Patrick Marleau, who got SJ’s first goal less than a minute into the game, wheeled around Mike Komisarek like he was Craig Rivet. Joe Thornton, who rarely looked like Cam Neely when he was in Boston, was a dominant force last night. Josh Gorges took a pounding and was presssured into uncharacteristic bad decisions.

Andrei Markov played well, but the Canadiens best pairing was Roman Hamrlik and Ryan O’Byrne. The big rookie scored his first NHL goal and, like his  defence partner, was plus-1 on the game. O’Byrne hasn’t had a minus start since returning from his thumb injury.

Tomas Plekanec scored twice and his line was Canadiens’ most effective. Saku Koivu’s line had some chances but couldn’t finish, especially on the PP. San Jose has the best PK Canadiens have seen this season, keyed by aggressive puck pursuit from Mike Grier and Torrie Mitchell. The latter, a native of suburban Greenfield Park, was outstanding against his hometown team.

Brian Smolinski had a rough start – he tripped Price, leading to Thornton’s first goal  – but played decently as the game wore on. Guillaume Latndresse, however, hasn’t scored in more than a month and looked particularly slow against the speedy Sharks. 

Max Lapierre, Mikhail Grabovski and Michael Ryder played with energy. Max’s goal in the third period made it a one-goal game with 16 minutes to play.

That’s the positive note we can enjoy over the next couple days: playing a Cup contender on the road and getting crap goaltending from their recently anointed Numero Uno, Canadiens did not roll over.

The team battled. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’d have won with better goaltending, but it would have been an interesting game – and worth staying up till past 1 a.m. to watch.

The Bruins lost. So did Ottawa – and Bryan Murray got tossed for bitching about the officiating.

Carbo had a restrained night, by his standards. We have to hope, however, that Price gets better protection – if not from the refs than from his teammates.

 

 


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