Let’s begin by stating the obvious: the referees blew the call on Kris Letang’s winning goal.
Specifically, Mike Hasenfratz blew it by not blowing his whistle when Carey Price immobilized the puck. Hasenfratz was on the wrong side of the net, couldn’t see Price’s glove over the puck … it was a mess.
The Canadiens’ goaltender was furious and flung his stick toward the boards.
Sadly, it didn’t hit Yannick Weber.
The cheesy Swiss defenceman was on the ice for Pittsburgh’s second and third goals – which erased a 3-1 Canadiens lead – and for Letang’s OT winner.
Weber was responsible for letting Jordan Staal get behind him for the goal that made it 3-3.
I don’t know how an alleged NHL defenceman lets a player of Staal’s calibre beat him free and clear while protecting a one-goal lead. Weber said Staal came off the Pittsburgh bench late, but still …
In addition to having a front-row seat for three Pittsburgh goals, Weber played almost four minutes at the point on the Canadiens’ power-play, which took another 0-for against Pittsburgh to run its futility streak to 19.
He is nervous with the puck on the PP, and Weber rarely gets his powerful shot on goal.
James Wisniewski he isn’t.
Sheldon Souray he isn’t.
Against Pittsburgh, Weber wasn’t even Raphael Diaz, who played 20 solid minutes and finished plus-1, as did his D partner, the steadily improving Alexei Emelin.
Two other Canadiens, Tomas Plekanec and Hal Gill were on for three of the Pittsburgh goals and matched Weber’s minus-3.
They were topped, however, by the captain. Brian Gionta was on for every Pittsburgh goal, from Geno Malkin’s shocker, 21 seconds into the game, to Letang’s winner, 2:09 into OT.
The line of Gionta, Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri was the Canadiens’ worst against the Penguins. They began the game against Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Chris Kunitz; and surrendering that early goal, setting the tone for a night on ineptitude that saw Pleks, Gionta and Cammalleri consistently losing puck battles to the bigger, more determined and, it must be acknowledged, more talented Penguins.
While Weber was the goat on Staal’s goal, the sequence began with Gionta losing the puck to Malkin in the neutral zone. That will happen when a 5’7″ player engages one who is 6’3″. But at least Gionta puts up a fight. That’s more than can be said for Cammalleri, who is a non-hitting liability in the Canadiens zone and is one of several Habs firing blanks on the PP.
Cammalleri is on pace to score 17 goals this season. A much more substantial contribution from the erstwhile sniper is needed by a low-scoring team like the Canadiens.
The most effective line against Pittsburgh was Two and a Half Men: David Desharnais centring Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty. Cole and Pacioretty each had a goal and an assist, DD won 13 of 21 faceoff and the line combined for 15 of the Canadiens’ 27 shots.
I also liked the work of Lars Eller, Travis Moen (who scored again) and Andrei Kostitsyn, who returned to action with a physical game and chemistry with his linemates. Eller has great vision and creativity, uses his size well, made suprrb passes and was rewarded with time on the PP and the Canadiens’ 3-for-3 penalty-kill.
If you take the long view of this team – as opposed to the view that suggests they won’t be playing hockey as long as Pittsburgh will this spring – Eller is going to be a very important player. He has joined Price, P.K. Subban (who was very good against the Penguins) and Pacioretty as the core elements of good things to come.
But in losing twice and being outshot a total 78-51 by Philadelphia and Pittsburgh this weekend, the Canadiens look like a team whose time has not come.
They are 10-10-4 on the season, and all four OT/Shootout losses have come at the Bell Centre, where the Canadiens have won four of 13.
The Canadiens are 6-5 on the road, where they will play 10 of their next 15.
• • •
Something for conspiracy theorists to ponder:
As Dany Dubé suggested on the 98.5 FM game broadcasts, the refs weren’t about to disallow THREE Pittsburgh goals.