SAINT PAUL – The past 24 hours haven’t been easy for the Canadiens, and Wednesday’s game was far from the storybook ending the team had envisioned.
Following the passing of legendary Hall-of-Famer Jean Béliveau on Tuesday evening, the Canadiens had an emotional day on Wednesday ahead of their matchup against the Wild. While they hit the ice with every intention of honoring the iconic former captain by playing with the same pride with which Béliveau played every one of his 1,125 career NHL games as a Hab, the night didn’t go exactly the way they had drawn it up.
“The only good hockey we played was in the third period and there’s no excuse with everything that’s happened in the past day to not show up and give our best right from the puck drop,” said Max Pacioretty, who had two shots, two hits and two blocked shots in 18:54 of ice time. “There’s no excuse for that. When we play like we did at the end of the third period, that’s when we have a chance to win the game. We gave away two periods and at the end of the day, we gave away the game.”
The Canadiens donned commemorative No. 4 stickers on their helmets throughout the game out of respect for Béliveau and the team spent the morning mourning the loss of one of the greatest players to ever wear the “CH”. Allowing a goal 19 seconds into the game before being outshot 30-10 by the second intermission, the Habs had a tough time explaining their slow start in a game they were planning to dedicate to the Canadiens legend.
“It’s difficult to respond to that,” admitted head coach Michel Therrien, when asked if the events of the previous 24 hours had served as more of a source of motivation or a distraction for his troops. “It’s not like any other scenario we’ve experienced. There probably were a lot of distractions before the game, which could explain why we didn’t get the start we wanted. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s not an excuse. That should have been more of a source of motivation than a distraction.”
Coming out looking to reverse their fortunes in the third, the Canadiens fired nine shots on goal, pushing back with a series of great scoring chances while also holding the Wild shotless on a five minute powerplay in the final frame. Getting on the board with just under a minute to go in regulation with Carey Price pulled for the extra attacker, the Habs never let up, but they weren’t able to pot the equalizer before the final buzzer.
“We weren’t making plays, we weren’t executing and we got away from our game plan. We’re an average team when we do that,” stressed Pacioretty following the 2-1 loss. “When we have success, it’s for a reason: we’re all on the same page and we all play a certain way. When we get away from that, we’re just another team. When we play the way we’re capable of and we play the way we did in the third, that’s when we have success and that’s when we’re a great team.”
They’ll have another chance to prove it on Friday night in Chicago.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
Highlights: Canadiens-WildThe Numbers Game - December 3, 2014 Tribute to Jean Béliveau Playing with a purpose Jean Béliveau passes away at the age of 83