RALEIGH – No lead is safe when you give the opposition life.
On Tuesday night, the Canadiens paid the price for taking too many penalties, surrendering a 3-0 advantage heading into the third period before ultimately dropping a 5-4 overtime decision to the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
In the aftermath of a bitter defeat, head coach Michel Therrien wasn’t offering up any excuses for his squad’s inability to close out a Hurricanes team that had lost five straight games coming into the tilt.
“Our inability to play disciplined hockey cost us the game. We were never able to get our momentum back,” offered Therrien, who watched his troops take 10 minor penalties over the course of the game and surrender two goals while short-handed, both of which came courtesy of Hurricanes sniper Jeff Skinner. “As a coach, you’re responsible for the discipline of your hockey team. We’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The players themselves took the loss equally as hard as their head coach, noting that their failure to stay the course while dominating the Hurricanes early on cost them a valuable extra point in the standings.
“The penalties caught up with us. You could see come the third period, they scored a couple of power play goals and we were able to hold them off for a while, but eventually it caught up with us,” noted captain Brian Gionta, referring to Carolina’s early third period blitz in which they scored two power play goals and another even-strength marker in a span of 4:07 to start the final stanza before taking a 4-3 lead with their fourth unanswered goal courtesy of Manny Malhotra just over four minutes later.
“You’re taxing certain guys that are playing the penalty kill,” added Gionta. “They’re working extra hard and the flipside of that is that you’ve got guys sitting on the bench for long periods of time and not getting into the game. It’s a double-edged sword.”
Penalty-killing specialist Josh Gorges is adamant that the Canadiens’ discipline level – or lack thereof – is something that needs to change in order for the club to be successful going forward.
“The undisciplined penalties that we were taking, you can’t continually take them. You can kill a couple of them off, but eventually the players are going to find a way to sneak one in. I think once that happened, we kind of lost our composure,” offered Gorges, who was one of four Habs players that logged over five minutes of ice time on the penalty kill alone on Tuesday night with Tomas Plekanec leading the way in that category at 7:54.
“They started gaining some momentum, they got some life and they started throwing everything at us. That’s something that we’ve got to learn from,” continued Gorges, who blocked a season-high eight shots against the Hurricanes. “You can’t play hockey that way. If we could’ve just been smarter going into the third and stayed disciplined, you don’t give them any life and you close them out.”
While it clearly wasn’t the way the Canadiens were hoping to finish the calendar year, the good news is that they’ll be forced to put this loss in the rear-view mirror quickly with a tilt against the Dallas Stars on the horizon come Thursday night in the Lone Star State.Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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