Hit the panic button: The Canadiens are winless on home ice this year.
OK, I promise that’s the last cheap 2017 joke.
Laughs were rare at the Bell Centre. Washington took the Canadiens out to the woodshed on a frigid Monday night in Montreal.
As the minutes ticked down on the Capitals’ win, fans could draw solace from the fact Alexander Ovechkin had been kept off the scoreboard.
If the Great 8 was going to tie the career goal total of the even greater Maurice Richard, at least it wouldn’t happen in the 514 area code and be announced in the Rocket’s mother tongue.
Ovechkin tied the Rocket on a Washington power-play in garbage time. His 544th was an accurate but fairly anodyne wrister that beat Carey Price on the short side.
Washington was full-value for the win. The red-hot Caps – disgustingly healthy and riding a five-game winning streak – outshot the injury-ravaged Canadiens in each period of the game and generated continuous O-zone pressure.
In his postgame remarks, telecast during L’Antichambre, Michel Therrien praised the Capitals as “a good team that doesn’t give up many scoring chances.”
“Physically and mentally, we weren’t alert,” Therrien added. “I don’t know why, but the first game back from a long road trip is a demanding game. We weren’t sharp.”
The Canadiens had their moments.
Their best line was Tomas Plekanec, between Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen, and they combined for the Canadiens’ only goal.
It was scored by … wait for it … Plekanec. The veteran centre led the Canadiens with five shots on goal. Pleks had good rapport with Byron and Lehkonen. I’d like to see the line remain intact for a while… and Therrien agreed.
“They skated well, made sone good plays and attacked the net,” the coach said. “That’s a positive from tonight.”
The top line looked intermittently dangerous. There will be better things to come when Alex Galchenyuk returns to the lineup.
And it will be interesting to see who becomes the team’s second-line centre: Phillip Danault, who wasn’t great against Washington, or Plekanec, whose goal may snap the veteran out of a season-long torpor.
Nikita Scherbak was another bright spot. The kid had four shots, two of which were on net. He has obvious skills in the offensive zone.
He’s also a fun interview. The Sportsnet telecast included a great clip in which Scherbak said he’d spent two frustrating hours on a video link to Moscow, explaining to his unilingual mother how to find the Canadiens game on whatever NHL satellite feed you can pirate over there.
If the kid stays up with the big club, maybe Ma Scherbak will be treated to a win.
Max Pacioretty said it was too bad the fans, who hadn’t seen the Canadiens live in more than two weeks, weren’t treated to a better effort.
The chance for home-ice redemption will come Saturday against the Rangers.
In the interim, the Canadiens play a tough back-to-back in Winnipeg and Minnesota.
• • •
Comment on the Liveblog from Arnou Ruelle:
This game is, by far, the most obvious CP has been in terms of underperformance. But for me, the team should be putting more pucks in the net. Talent wise, the Habs are no match for the Capitals tonight. They sure do need a Galchenyuk, a Markov, or a Shaw. Other than that, I like the way the 4th line is working. MT did made sure Big Mac and Scherbak play within the system. They still need to grow within the team.
The team, after their road trip, looked dead tired. After this game, its back-to-back road games in Winnipeg, then Minnesota. Rest and recuperation will be key here. The all-star weekend is their only time to recharge themselves.
Washington will be a tough opponent if ever the Habs face them in the playoffs.
From kale vine:
Caps have no injuries…Habs have oodles. Just no match for them. If Habs hadn’t scored the tie goal it might have ended 1-0 or 2-0, but when they tied it the Caps just decided to regain the lead, and did it promptly.
A healthy Habs team does much better against the Caps, especially in the playoffs
And the last word, from Duker:
Glass half full: 4-1-1 last 6 road games
Glass half empty: 1 regulation win last 9 games