Your Montreal Canadiens turned Game 3 into their own unique take on a Mexican holiday: Stinko de Mayo.
And when the smoke cleared and the smell had dissipated – save for generous supplies of bovine excrement dished out during the coach’s press conferences – the Senators had beaten the Canadiens like a pinata.
An undersized, soft pinata at that.
The game – and possibly the series – turned seven minutes into the third period.
Within eight seconds, Ottawa scored twice and won five fights.
Oh, one more thing: Senators coach Paul MacLean won the war of the press conferences.
Michel Therrien fired off the first volley. After acknowledging “we were beaten by a good team”, Therrien sounded off on the timeout MacLean called with 17 seconds left and his team up 6-1.
“I never saw it before,” Therrien said, “and I talked to the referee and he said he never saw it before. As far as I’m concerned, it was classless.”
The winning coach gets to face the media after the loser. Apprised of Therrien’s comments, MacLean began to read off a list of the goon penalties the Canadiens took with the game out of reach: Brandon Prust for elbowing at 16:58, Rene Bourque for cross-checking and slashing at 19:42.
“I didn’t want anyone to get hurt,” MacLean said. “It was getting dumb enough as it was.
“Under circumstances initiated by the Montreal Canadiens, I was forced to protect my players. I will do that every time.”
Then MacLean made the observation that neatly summarized the Game 3 horror show:
“It got a little bit stupid in the end, but that’s hockey.”
It’s not Montreal Canadiens hockey.
The team, as currently constituted, cannot win a game that turns into a street fight.
If the Canadiens think they can outmuscle Ottawa, this series is going to be over in five games.
This is not 1976, when Scotty Bowman had a lineup that could score goals AND pound the snot out of the Broad St. Bullies.
The 2013 Canadiens don’t have Pierre Bouchard, Rick Chartraw and Larry Robinson. They don’t have Chris Chelios to tune up Brian Propp. They don’t have Chris Nilan and John Kordic to throw down with the hated Nordiques.
They don’t even have Todd Ewen.
Brandon Prust has the heart of a lion. But how is he going to protect teammates who are too small for some rides at La Ronde?
Eric Gryba probably will return to the Ottawa lineup for Game 4 on Tuesday. Here’s a fearless prediction: If the Canadiens try to wreak revenge on Gryba for his hit on Lars Eller, they’re going to be facing elimination at the Bell Centre on Thursday.
Whether speed and skill are sufficient to win in the NHL playoffs is a question Marc Bergevin will contemplate and address in the off-season. For now, the Canadiens have to play the style that won the Northeast Division this season.
That style was rarely in evidence through the two periods during which Game 3 was still competitive.
By focusing his postgame remarks on MacLean’s allegedly grave insult to the sacred memory of Howie Morenz, Therrien was able to avoid talking about the real reasons his team trails in this series.
Let’s start with one of the Canadiens who didn’t fight Sunday night.
David Desharnais was signed to a four-year, $14 million contract extension this season. Through three games of this series, DD has played 52:22 – including 9:11 on the power play.
He has yet to register a shot on goal.
This is the number two centre on a playoff team?
OK, so maybe DD doesn’t have to shoot. He’s in the lineup for playmaking. Maybe he’s feeding his linemates.
Uh, no. Neither Michael Ryder nor Max Pacioretty has unduly troubled Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson.
Desharnais is not the main reason the Canadiens got bent over a log in Game 3.
Carey Price did not look on the Jean-Gabriel Pageau goal that proved to be the winner … nor on the other two by the Ottawa rookie. As was the case in Game 1, Ottawa got the better goaltending.
Price got no help from his defencemen. Andrei Markov was a turnstile. P.K. lost his s–t and took a bunch of bad penalties.
The power play sucked again. Its ineptitude was particularly damaging in the first period. Chris Neil came out determined to maim everyone in a white jersey, and a PP goal or two might have cooled his homicidal ardor.
As it was, Neil’s aggression set the tone for the game. And when the Canadiens tried to “send a message”, they were outgooned and outgunned … by a lot.
Your Canadiens don’t have the horses or the heavyweights to wage war against Neil, Jared Cowen, Zack Smith et al.
They have to regroup, refocus and play their game – to the extent they can in the postseason, when the ice seems to get a lot smaller.
This series isn’t over until the fat walrus sinks.