Let’s keep this short and to the point.
This is what we learned about the 2010-’11 Montreal Canadiens:
• They have to play 60 minutes of hockey or 65, as the case may be
• They can’t take any team lightly.
• Carey Price may be the best goaltender in the NHL, but on this night, Devan Dubnyk was better.
In the words of Roman Hamrlik, whose milestone evening – 600th NHL point, 150th NHL goal – was ruined:
“When we play selfish, we don’t win.”
Jacques Martin thought his team got up 3-1 and stopped playing the style that had delivered the two-goal lead.
Up till the midway point of the second period, the coach said, the Canadiens were rolling four lines and playing solid 5-on-5 hockey.
“Penalties took away our momentum,” Martin said.
Martin listed several disappointing aspects of his team’s play:
• Too much individual play (echoing Hamrlik’s analysis)
• Too many turnovers in the opponent’s end and at their blueline
• Too many odd-man rushes yielded
“There’s a balance between team play and individual play,” Martin said. “It got out of balance, and it cost us a point.
“Against any team in this league,” he added, “if you play with fire you get burned.”
The Canadiens won’t have time to mope. As the few players who bothered showing up in the room answered questions, equipment bags were being loaded for the trip to New Jersey and a Thursday night dance with the Devils.
There’s more talent in NJ than Edmonton.
But probably not more enthusiasm.
The Oilers are not going to make the playoffs. A long rebuild continues.
But as that great hockey writer Bob Dylan pointed out, when you ain’t got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose.
The visitors were fast and they were hungry. Down 3-1, they did not quit but kept forechecking aggressively, pouncing on Canadiens’ errors and creating odd-man rushes.
Carey Price was not at his best on the Sam Gagner shortie that tied the game or the Dustin Penner shot from close in that won it.
But Price made many heroic saves as his teammates carelessness opened the door for Edmonton to keep pressing.
And the goaltender at the other end of the ice – inelegant, looking like a beer league guy who won a contest to play an NHL game – stopped 36 Canadiens’ shots and was as a wall as his teammates fashioned their comeback.
For all that, it was a very winnable game for the home team.
They let it slip away in the most disheartening late-game collapse of the season.