Updated 10:40 pm with audio
Canadiens goalie Carey Price and defenceman Josh Gorges team up to stop Columbus forward Rick Nash.
Christinne Muschi, Reuters
Canadiens legend Bob Gainey laced up his skates, pulled on a bleu-blanc-rouge jersey and turned a solo lap of Bell Centre ice tonight before a moving ceremony to retire the No. 23 he wore during an illustrious, Hall of Fame career.
Sadly, Gainey left the ice surface a half-hour before his team’s game began against Columbus and he didn’t return.
The ceremony honouring the Canadiens’ current general manager clearly was the night’s highlight, eclipsing the effort of the Habs in a 3-0 loss to the visiting Blue Jackets.
It was Montreal’s second consecutive defeat following a four-game winning streak.
By midway through the third period, disgrunted fans in the cheap(er) seats were hollering that they wanted Marian Hossa, the coveted sniper from Atlanta rumoured ad nauseum to be bound for the Canadiens before Tuesday’s NHL trading deadline. They’ll get him that night, if only because the Thrashers will then be in town to close out Montreal’s four-game homestand.
The Blue Jackets got on the scoreboard at 6:24, with Canadiens’ Tom Kostopoulos and Columbus’ Jared Boll serving fighting majors. Rick Nash, having slipped in behind defenceman Mike Komisarek, converted a sharp cross-ice pass from Mike Peca to beat Habs goalie Carey Price with his 33rd of the season.
Andrew Murray then made it 2-0 at 10:01 on a very stoppable shot, beating Price with an unscreened wrist shot from 20 feet.
The Canadiens enjoyed an 11-6 edge in first-period shots, but Blue Jackets goalie Pascale Leclaire was equal to anything thrown his way.
With a commanding lead in shots, 20-9 through 11:17 of the second period, the Canadiens went on a 5-on-3 for 1:10, but still couldn’t crack Leclaire. But then, they had just one shot through that 70 seconds.
Montreal outshot Columbus 12-8 in the second for a 40-minute 23-14 edge.
Columbus added their third when Manny Malhotra stripped Maxim Lapierre of the puck inside the Montreal blue line and went in to deke Price at 16:42.
At least a few of this city’s linguistically motivated fans wanted a mulligan on their cheers for head coach Guy Carbonneau, who enjoyed a rousing ovation when introduced during the Gainey ceremony.
Carbonneau didn’t dress forward Guillaume Latendresse, the third time he’s been a healthy scratch this season; forward Mathieu Dandenault, his seventh; and defenceman Patrice Brisebois, his 19th and fifth game in a row.