MONTREAL – There haven’t been many games the Canadiens would like to forget early on this season, but it’s safe to say Sunday night’s tilt against the Calgary Flames is certainly one of them.
Outplayed in every facet of the game in their first appearance in front of the Bell Centre faithful since October 25th, Michel Therrien’s troops dropped a 6-2 decision to the Flames to suffer their first home loss of the season. The defeat also marked the first time the Canadiens have lost two consecutive games all year.
“That’s unacceptable. We have to find a way to come out, get off to a good start and outbattle a team like that. We just weren’t able to do it,” stressed Max Pacioretty, whose team found itself down 2-0 through 20 minutes of play after being outshot by a 19-4 margin early in the hockey game. “They outplayed us the whole game. Maybe there are bits and pieces where we liked our game, but we didn’t put anything significant together. Obviously, the start is important and we keep talking about it, but it ultimately comes down to intensity. That’s the final reason why we lost.”
Taking eight minor penalties didn’t help the Canadiens’ cause either, sinking their chances of establishing any momentum whatsoever through two periods before finally breaking through with goals from Pacioretty and Lars Eller in the final frame. Unfortunately, it proved to be too little, too late.
“Some penalties put us a little bit down. We have to be better with the penalties. Our special teams have to better, and definitely we have to play much harder with emotion and the way we know we can play. We have to regroup and play better next game,” explained Andrei Markov, who picked up his 447th career point in a Canadiens uniform on Sunday night to join Doug Harvey in third place on the team’s all-time points list among defensemen. “There’s wasn’t much in the way of positives. The way we played is unacceptable. We try to forget those types of games and move forward. That was a tough night.”
If the Canadiens struggled to string anything together in their 12th outing of the season, Bob Hartley’s contingent appeared to pick up right where it left off against the Habs last Tuesday night in Calgary. Despite coming up short when all was said and done at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames fired 38 shots in Price’s direction that night, dictating a good part of the play from puck drop onward. That scenario seemingly repeated itself again at the Bell Centre.
“If we knew the reason why it happened, we’d have a lot more answers right now, but the only thing that I know is that it’s unacceptable. We know what we have on this team. We know the special group that we have and what we’re capable of. We’re not going to win on talent,” confided Pacioretty, who accounted for six of the Canadiens’ 20 shots on goal on Sunday night. “That’s a good example of it right there. Calgary is a team that relies on their hard work and intensity, and not being able to match it shows a lot.”
That wasn’t lost on the Canadiens’ bench boss, who watched his squad come out flat in a game that mandated that his players match the grit that the Flames have been known to exhibit every single shift.
“It’s tough to explain. If you’re not ready to compete in this league, you’ve got no chance. We didn’t compete,” offered Therrien, whose contingent now sits tied for top spot in the Atlantic Division with the Tampa Bay Lightning with 17 points. “It was a tough game for our team and for a lot of players. It’s tough to accept. We need better starts. We need to find ways to get the lead, especially at home. There are no excuses. Individual preparation has a lot to do with it. We’ve always been a team that takes pride in having good starts. We’re not seeing that right now.”
Fortunately, the Canadiens will be able to put Sunday night’s thumping behind them in short order. Not only will they welcome the Chicago Blackhawks to the Bell Centre on Tuesday, but they’ll also go up against the Sabres on Wednesday night in Buffalo to complete their third back-to-back series of the season.
“It’s a tough game. I thought we had a pretty good start definitely in the first couple of minutes, but it got away from us,” offered P.K. Subban, who registered a minus-3 differential in the loss while logging 22:28 of ice time. “It’s probably a night that we want to put behind us and get ready for the next game. It’s not our best game. That wasn’t the team that we are out there. We’re a better team than that.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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