OTTAWA – The Canadiens didn’t generate much of anything during the opening frame against the Senators on Thursday night, and it ultimately cost them a shot at a seventh straight road win.
Outshot by a 20-6 margin through 20 minutes of play at the Canadian Tire Centre, Michel Therrien’s troops were fortunate to head to the locker room trailing their Atlantic Division rivals 2-1 on the scoreboard. Dave Cameron’s contingent, however, never took its foot off the gas, handing the Canadiens a 4-1 defeat in the nation’s capital. It was the first time the Habs had dropped a game away from the Bell Centre since December 6.
“We came out flat. There’s no excuse for that. Ottawa’s a team that’s desperate right now. They’re fighting for their lives. There’s been a change of scenery [with the coaching change], so they’re trying to make a statement. You’ve got to find a way to show up, especially against a team like that. We weren’t able to do that. It’s disappointing,” explained Pacioretty, who extended his goal-scoring streak to six games in the loss, becoming the first Canadiens player since Denis Savard to accomplish the feat between February 7 and March 1, 1991. “We wish we could’ve built off a great third period last game in Columbus. That’s just the way it goes. The only people we can blame are ourselves. We’ve got to find a way to work harder.”
The Canadiens certainly did that as the game went on, holding the Senators to just 15 shots for the two remaining periods combined while generating a bevy of good scoring chances of their own. Unfortunately, netminder Craig Anderson wasn’t in a very giving mood, pacing Ottawa to its ninth home victory of the year with a 25-save effort.
“Once we started to play our game, we had a chance to get back into it. We just couldn’t find a way to solve the goalie. A lot of the game was on the perimeter. A game like that, back-to-back, I think it’s got to be a playoff mentality. We’ve got to find ways to get pucks on net and bodies on net. That’s where you need to be to beat a hot goaltender,” stressed Pacioretty, who, along with linemates Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher accounted for the bulk of the Canadiens’ offensive output with 10 shots on goal. “The back-to-back isn’t an excuse for anyone. Our best hockey was later in the game. You can’t use that as an excuse.”
Like his players, Therrien wasn’t about to hide his dissatisfaction in the aftermath of a tough result.
“In my mind, the story of this game was the first period. We knew exactly how the Senators were going to play. You have to give them credit. They came out very hard. Our first period was the worst one we’d played all season,” offered Therrien, whose club also struggled with the man advantage once again, failing to light the lamp in four power play opportunities. “There were about seven forwards that didn’t get a single shot on goal. We need contributions from more than a single line. The rest of the guys need to get going and contribute more on offense.”
Lars Eller, who hasn’t found the back of the net in seven straight games, shared similar thoughts before the Canadiens made the trek back to La Belle Province by train.
“They came out hard. We were expecting that, but we still didn’t get the job done and execute as good as they did. They capitalized on their chances. They scored more goals than us and they got the win,” mentioned Eller. “We created momentum when we had the power play. I don’t think that’s the reason why we didn’t win. It’s as much in 5-on-5 situations that our game wasn’t where it was supposed to be, especially in the first period. I think that’s where we lost.”
With that in mind, the Canadiens will undoubtedly be looking to come out of the gate strong against the New York Islanders on Saturday night in Montreal, setting the tone early on in a clash of two of the top clubs in the Eastern Conference.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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