MONTREAL – The Habs had their chances on Tuesday night but the Oilers proved they’re the stingiest defense in the NHL for a reason.
Despite being outshot 29-14 by the Canadiens, the Oilers managed to squeak out of the Bell Centre with a 3-1 win. Giving up 17 scoring chances against is rarely a recipe for success – unless you have the league’s leading netminder between the pipes.
“Looking at the shot clock, we definitely got the chances. We had good traffic, good rebounds and we had guys battling in front of the net,” described Max Pacioretty, who scored the Canadiens’ lone goal late in the third period. “It was just one of those games. The chances were definitely there but [Nikolai] Khabibulin played a tremendous game. At the same time we have to be better at burying our chances.”
Kicking aside 28 of the 29 shots he faced, Khabibulin brought his league-leading goals-against average to 0.98 while maintaining his sparkling .964 save percentage. The Edmonton All-Star may have been the biggest difference on Tuesday night, but the Canadiens’ special teams didn’t help, either. While the Habs penalty kill snuffed out both of the Oilers’ power plays in the outing, the PP went 0-for-6 with the man advantage while giving up a shorthanded goal against.
“That’s something Jacques talks about frequently,” revealed Erik Cole, who had a team-high five shots and four hits. “In games where we’re on the plus side with our special teams, we usually come out on the winning side; games when we’re not, obviously you see the results. When you consider the amount of opportunities we had, it could’ve been a very different game if we had cashed in on a couple.”
The results weren’t what the Canadiens were hoping for, but head coach Jacques Martin was still pleased with the way his team played on Tuesday night.
“You’re disappointed with the score, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort or execution; we just didn’t finish,” stressed the Habs bench boss. “They’re a talented young team but we still dominated them in shots and we had a lot of scoring chances – we just needed to capitalize. We’ll look at the tape and find the areas we need to be better and regroup for Thursday’s game.”Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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