Suffering Canadiens withdrawal? The Gazette has the answer with the ultimate fantasy experience as beat writer Pat Hickey and Gazette techie Eric Tobon employ EA Sports NHL 13 to produce The Season That Isn’t. Here’s how things might have looked in Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs in Toronto.
TORONTO _ The good news for David Desharnais was that he collected two assists against the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night.
The bad news is that the line of Max Pacioretty, Desharnais and Eric Cole produced the only offence in a 4-2 loss to the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.
“I think our line has good chemistry and we want to stay together,” said Desharnais, who assisted on Pacioretty’s power-play goal in the first period and then set up Cole on a 2-on-1 breakaway midway through the third period.
The Desharnais line was one of the few bright spots for the Canadiens last season and new coach Michel Therrien said he planned to keep them together to start the season.
But he also said he might break up the top line in an attempt to find more balanced scoring and it was obvious that there was little in the way of balance in this game. The Canadiens managed only 19 shots on James Reimer and the Desharnais line accounted for eight shots. Throw in six shots from the defence and that means the other three lines had only five shots on goal.
“It’s too early to start making changes but we have to create more chances,” said Therrien, who saw his team fall to 0-2 on the season.
The Leafs made life tough for Canadiens goaltender Carey Price in the first period when they outshot Montreal 18-3.
“You like to get shots early so that you get into the game but they came at us pretty hard,” said Price.
The fans were still filing into their seats when Tim Connolly gave the Leafs the early lead at the 56-second mark of the opening period. Connolly was tied up in front by Alexei Emelin but managed to tip Dion Phaneuf’s shot from the point.
After Pacioretty tied the score at 4:51 with a slapshot from the half wall, the Leafs scoed twice in a 71-second span to take control of the game.
Phil Kessel scored on the rebound of a shot by Tyler Bozak at 11:33 and Matthew Lombardi made it 3-1 when he scored on a harmless looking wrister which eluded Price’s glove hand.
“That’s one I would have wanted back,” said Price. “I thought I had it but I was a split-second too late.”
Cole, the team’s leading goal-scorer last season, notched his first as he beat defender Mike Komisarek to the net and redirected a perfect pass from Desharnais.
“I’m still not 100 per cent,” said Cole, who missed most of training camp with a lower-body ailment. “But I’m feeling stronger every day and this was a good start. Last year, it took me eight games to get the first one.”
The Canadiens pulled Price with 1:43 to play but managed only one shot on goal before James Van Riemsdyk iced the game with an empty-netter.
Things don’t get any easier for the Canadiens as they face the rival Boston Bruins Tuesday at the Bell Centre with a rematch Thursday at the TD Garden.