MONTREAL -- Carey Price was in the building on Tuesday, but it was another goaltender who stole the show.
Pregame, Alex Galchenyuk warned of the effect the Bell Centre can have on visiting teams looking to crash the party. Cue Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks who arrived in Montreal having lost six in a row.
On a day when Price -- still sidelined with a lower body injury but making an appearance during a TV timeout to a standing ovation -- earned the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete, Jones stopped 26 of 27 shots -- including three over a pair of Habs power plays -- to earn the night’s First Star on the way to a 3-1 decision.
“We’re getting great looks, our personnel is so good and we’ve got so many options, but we’re just not beating goalies right now. I’m sure we’re going to look at it and get back to basics, but we hit a hot goalie tonight. He played a hell of a game,” admitted Nathan Beaulieu, who was denied of a sure goal with the man advantage during the third period. “He’s a world-class goalie. The puck was rolling a little bit and I tried to get it up and hammer it into the net -- but that was a hell of a save. Kudos to him, he played a hell of a hockey game tonight.”
You can call it the case of a hot netminder, a phenomenon the Habs are typically more familiar with working in their own favor, but Max Pacioretty is not buying it.
“We have so many excuses where we can say the puck’s just not going in, but sometimes you’ve just got to look in the mirror. We definitely moved the puck well on the power play in the third period, but we can’t keep calling it bad luck. We’ve got to figure it out,” prescribed the Habs captain who led the team with four shots on goal but finished the night a minus-2. “We give them three goals, and we’re in the hole 3-0. That’s tough to come out of, especially against a Western Conference team like that.”
Indeed, the Habs were perhaps too generous in this season of giving, spotting the Sharks a three-goal lead before the game met its halfway mark.
“We’ve got to make teams work for their goals. I said it before the game, San Jose has guys that can make you pay, and it was their top guys who made us pay. It was just too easy, way too easy for them,” continued Pacioretty on a night when Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Dainius Zubrus were the Sharks goalscorers. “We liked the way things we’re going in the first, we felt like we had momentum, but it didn’t carry over into the second. We gave them easy goals and it’s tough to feel good about yourself when they didn’t even have to work hard for their goals.”
Head coach Michel Therrien’s reiteration made things clear enough.
“We gave them three goals. They didn’t have to work for them. That’s what’s frustrating. It’s disappointing to see your team give up goals like that.”
What was encouraging, on the other hand, was the return of Torrey Mitchell. Following an 11-game absence, the Greenfield Park, QC native was back in the lineup, playing 11:14 of ice time while notably sticking up for teammate P.K. Subban opposite Barclay Goodrow following a hard hit in the first. It’s a sign that reinforcements are now finally on their way, and the Habs winning ways should soon follow.
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
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