EDMONTON – Letting up against any opponent – no matter their win-loss record – simply isn’t a recipe for success.
On Thursday night, the 2015-16 edition of the Canadiens learned that lesson the hard way, watching an early 3-0 first period lead evaporate at Rexall Place, before eventually dropping a 4-3 decision to the Edmonton Oilers.
It was the second straight loss for Michel Therrien’s troops on their current three-game road swing through Western Canada after stringing together nine consecutive wins to begin the year.
“This shouldn’t happen to good teams. We’ve got to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. There’s not much to say other than that. We let our foot off the gas. We think we’re untouchable when we get up with a lead like that, but then we left our goalie stranded,” offered captain Max Pacioretty, whose squad generated three goals on 11 shots in the opening frame, but was held to just 10 total shots the rest of the way. “I’m a little bit embarrassed. We’ve got a game [on Friday] in Calgary. We’ve got to come back and prove that this was a fluke. That’s not our team.”
After Brendan Gallagher, Torrey Mitchell and Alex Galchenyuk all found the back of the net in a span of 8:24 during the first period, the Canadiens admit they deviated from the way they generally go about their business, using their speed to pressure opponents into making mistakes and coughing up pucks. Failing to do so gave the Oilers life, as Todd McLellan’s contingent scored four unanswered goals to pull off a dramatic comeback on home ice.
“The second period, we got fancy. We got a little confident and stopped putting pucks on net. That’s our game, working hard on the forecheck, digging for pucks, winning 50-50 battles. That wasn’t there after the first period. That’s all of us. That’s on everyone. It shouldn’t happen,” admitted Pacioretty, who acknowledged the Oilers’ relentlessness in Thursday night’s defeat. “Obviously, they took advantage of great opportunities and they’ve got some great players, but at the end of the day, we didn’t play our brand of hockey for two periods. That was the difference in the game.”
Mitchell – who scored his fourth goal in his last five games – shared similar thoughts in the aftermath of the Canadiens’ second loss of the season.
“Come the start of the second period, our concentration changed. I don’t have an explanation for it. The season is young, and we’re starting to learn a bit about our team in terms of the different situations that we find ourselves in. It wasn’t a positive tonight,” explained Mitchell, who now sits tied with Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec with five goals on the year. “I think we were controlling the game and we were playing well, but after that I don’t know what really happened.”
For his part, the Canadiens’ bench boss was somewhat at a loss for words, too, especially with the way momentum began to swing in the Oilers’ favour come period two.
“I really don’t remember ever experiencing something like that. It’s tough to swallow. We deviated from our game plan for the entire second period. We started to play fancy and we ended up losing the puck,” offered Therrien. “There are a lot things I could say to describe the way we played starting in the second period.”
Carey Price was certainly in agreement there.
“Basically, after the first period, we didn’t play our game. That’s pretty much how to sum it up,” admitted Price, who stopped 23 of 27 shots against on Thursday night in his bid to secure his first career win in Edmonton. “We continued to sit back and make plays that weren’t there. They just took advantage of it. They basically out-earned it for two periods.”
Fortunately, the Canadiens will have a shot at redemption in less than 24 hours’ time, and you can bet they’ll be ready to compete from start to finish.Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSO
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