ANAHEIM - The Canadiens stormed out of the gate and set the tone on Tuesday night in Orange County, but a second-period lapse proved costly in the end.
Michel Therrien's troops surrendered 21 shots during the middle frame alone - one of which ended up in the back of their net courtesy of Cam Fowler, who scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in a 2-1 Anaheim Ducks victory at the Honda Center.
It was a disappointing result for a Canadiens club that appeared to be in complete control of the contest early on, registering the first eight shots of the game before the Ducks even managed to put a shot of their own on Carey Price. Despite outshooting Randy Carlyle's club by a 17-10 margin in the opening period, though, the Canadiens headed to the dressing room down 1-0 on a late power play goal by Rickard Rackell.
Things just seemed to go downhill from there in the ensuing 20 minutes, and a late rally that included a goal by Andrew Shaw with exactly two minutes remaining in regulation time simply wasn't enough to complete the comeback in the first of three straight games on California soil.
"We started the game like we wanted to and then we kind of got away from it in the second and we opened ourselves up and gave up too many shots. We had a good effort in the third, but we were fighting from behind. We have to learn from this. We can't take a period off. We have to play that way for the full 60," admitted Jeff Petry, stressing the need for the Canadiens to maintain a consistent style of play from start to finish, regardless of the opposition. "There's no negotiations or anything like that. Everyone has to buy in and continue to put in the effort all the way through."
Given the Canadiens' recent struggles on the West Coast, the loss was particularly tough to take because they felt they were the ones who set the tone early and dominated the Ducks in their own barn, but ultimately let things slip away at a crucial point in the game.
"We know that we have a lot of speed. That's what we saw out there. It was a game between a team that maybe has a little more power and size in their lineup, but we have fast players. We were in it all game. We had a chance to win," said Mark Barberio. "I think we had a good 40 good minutes, and then the second wasn't our strongest period of the season. Their power play scored a big goal for them. It was a close game with a lot of offense."
The 40-38 shot total in favor of the Canadiens is a good indicator of that. While Carey Price was outstanding as usual, John Gibson was equally good between the pipes, offering up a 39-save performance to register his seventh win of the season.
"Both goaltenders were excellent," praised Therrien, who believes his club had their fair share of quality chances to beat Gibson, but just couldn't make those opportunities count. "We had many scoring chances. We lacked some finish around their net. There are nights like that."
Tuesday night was undoubtedly one of those nights. That being said, Price is adamant that lessons learned in Anaheim will go a long way towards helping the Canadiens when they try to snap a nine-game losing streak in San Jose on Friday night dating back to the 2000-01 campaign.
"It's never fun to lose. Looking back on it, there's always things you wish you would have done differently to change the outcome," said Price. "I just think we had to keep our feet moving, making it hard for them to contain our speed. If we have puck support and we keep moving our feet, we make it difficult on teams. That's kind of our forte. We have to get back to that."