MONTREAL – When you give the league’s most potent offense one opportunity after another to light the lamp, eventually they’re going to make you pay the price.
On Tuesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning did just that, snapping the Canadiens’ six-game winning streak by capitalizing on a pair of power play opportunities during a four-goal outburst in the second period to hand Michel Therrien’s troops a 4-2 loss at the Bell Centre. It was the Habs’ first defeat since December 18 and the first time they’d given up more than two goals in a game since December 6.
“We played against a really good team and we have to play better against a team like that. Our level of competitiveness wasn’t where it had to be and we didn’t play a disciplined brand of hockey. If you put those two ingredients together, the recipe isn’t a good one,” stressed Therrien, whose squad was outshot by a 36-22 margin and took six minor penalties during the tilt. “We forgot the reason why we’ve had success as of late. We didn’t deserve to win. We’ve got to put this one behind us and get our focus back, get our work ethic back and get our discipline back.”
It was the first time all year that the Canadiens had failed to pick up two points in the standings after scoring the game’s opening goal. They’d done so on 16 previous occasions during the 2014-15 campaign. This time around, however, their inability to stay out of the penalty box simply stalled any and all momentum they managed to generate.
“It definitely is disappointing. We wanted to prove something. We beat Pittsburgh last game and it would have been a pretty big statement if we could’ve come home and beat Tampa. But, we didn’t show up for half the game and with a team that has that much skill, you’re not going to win too many games when you do that,” offered Max Pacioretty, who started what appeared to be a solid comeback bid by the Canadiens with a goal at the 5:01 mark of the third period, but then headed off for cross checking just 54 seconds later. “We talked about discipline earlier in the season and we took too many penalties. It was good to win six in a row, but there’s a reason for that success. We can’t play that way against a team like that.”
Like his teammates, defenseman P.K. Subban was quick to point out that in this particular game the Canadiens were ultimately their own worst enemy.
“I don’t think we had the start we wanted. You definitely don’t want to be putting them on the power play. It’s tough to be critical of everything we’ve done because we’ve done things so well as of late, but we did so many things that aren’t going to help you win that game. We’ve got to be more disciplined. It starts there. I don’t think it really comes down to X’s and O’s. I think we have to compete harder in certain areas. We just didn’t do it,” admitted Subban, who watched from the penalty box as forward Tyler Johnson scored the first of his two goals on Tuesday night while the Lightning were up a man. “I’d love to have it back. I let my frustration get the best of me. Sometimes, that’s what happens when your emotions get the best of you. You learn and move on from there.”
Fortunately, the Habs will have plenty of time to regroup and refocus as they won’t be in action until they take on another Eastern Conference powerhouse in the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night in Montreal. It’s safe to say they’ll be up for that one with lessons learned in mind.
“We executed a few parts of our game well against the Lightning, but it wasn’t enough. We didn’t put forward the effort necessary during the entire 60 minutes,” mentioned Nathan Beaulieu, who got called for a delay of game penalty in the latter stages of the middle frame that led to the Lightning’s fourth and final marker. “Discipline was a problem. It’s too bad because things were going so well. If we want to be among the elite teams, we have to show up in a more convincing way.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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