Legends of the NHL’s Original Six era – Detroit’s Gordie Howe (left) and Canadiens’ Jean Béliveau – take part in tonight’s ceremonial opening faceoff.
Pierre Obendrauf, Gazette
The result wasn’t entirely unpredictable: the Detroit Red Wings, the best team in the NHL this season, in Montreal to play the slumping, confidence-challenged Canadiens. The 4-1 final score for the visitors might have been a little flattering to the free-falling Habs.
Montreal, now 13-10-4, lost its fifth game in the past six, and third in a row. Detroit, 19-6-2, won its fourth consecutive.
That the Canadiens’ vaunted power play went 0-for-5 was only part of the problem. The Red Wings got off to a first-period lead, had the Canadiens come back with a pretty backhand goal by Christopher Higgins in the second, then scored three straight, two in the second and another in the third to send the Bell Centre’s growingly unfaithful into an unhappy night.
Rookie goalie Carey Price, now pressed into the No. 1 job with Cristobal Huet nursing a groin injury, stopped 30 of 34 Detroit shots, while the Canadiens could muster just 16 on Dominik Hasek at the other end of the rink, not too many of them of decent quality.
The game served to pay tribute to the 81-year rivalry between the Canadiens and Red Wings. There wasn’t much of a rivalry on display once the puck was dropped by legends Jean Béliveau and Fordie Howe.
One of the few signs of life the Canadiens showed was Mathieu Dandenault pouncing on Detroit’s Mikhail Samuelsson in defence of Habs captain Saku Koivu, who was fighting his own battles all night.
The Habs return to practice on Wednesday, then play in Boston on Thursday before returning home for a Saturday game vs. the Carolina Hurricanes.