PITTSBURGH - Here are a few key storylines from Friday night's 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
After a scoreless first period, the Habs endured some breakdowns that took a toll on the momentum they had gathered from keeping pace with a red-hot Penguins team that only has two regulation losses in its last 12 home games.
The result? A pair of late-period goals in the second from Jason Zucker - that sandwiched Tomas Tatar's 21st of the season - each time giving Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.
"Key errors are key errors. Regardless, they remain mistakes. That's what hurt us defensively," explained head coach Claude Julien. "If you watch the game, I don't think it was a domination from one side. Still, they have some stars on the other side. We scored one goal on 35 shots. We had chances, posts, etc. We had to stay in the game and keep the puck out of our net. The third goal hurt us. We scored to make it 2-1 to allow us the chance to try to come back in the third. The third goal really hurt us."
Brendan Gallagher agreed, and took the time to highlight the work of Carey Price, noting that without the Habs netminder the game might not have been quite as close.
"We got sloppy in the second period and they took advantage. Our goaltender made a ton of very good saves; it could've been worse," praised Gallagher of Price, who made 24 saves. "Until we learn not to make these mistakes and give up these chances against these skilled teams, we're going to get those results."
Power play shows signs of hope
The Canadiens' power play struggles of late are well-documented, but Tatar's tally with 54 seconds to go in the middle frame came with the man advantage and should serve as a recipe for what Montreal needs to do if they want to repeat the feat and get their special teams unit rolling again.
"I think it was simple. It was one or two passes and we shot. It wasn't a pretty goal, but it was still a good one. We had a good screen in front there and we weren't passing it five or six times before we shot," described Victor Mete, who earned a helper on the goal. "We just got it side to side and shot and good things happened."
Looking to tomorrow
Losing three in a row certainly puts a large dent in the Canadiens' plans to push for a playoff spot, but they're not letting this latest defeat change their mindset.
And with the Dallas Stars in town waiting for Saturday night's contest at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens don't have much of a choice in the matter.
"All we're concerned about is just getting ready for the next game. It's a back-to-back. There's a good team coming in and you can never dwell on the past; you can't change it. All you can do is get ready for the next one, and control the future. We're not giving up by any means," affirmed Max Domi. "We're a team that's going to stick together. We believe in one another and work for each other every night, so we'll continue to do that and we have to find a way to get the next two points here."
Gallagher would undoubtedly like to see his team turn the corner, knowing full well that he'd feel a lot better if they would continue to bank two points in the standings every time they come to the rink.
"Our job is to play. There isn't a single team in the League that's going to let up and feel sorry [for us]," concluded Gallagher. "This game is a lot more fun when you're winning. Let's get back to that."
The Canadiens face the Stars at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday at the Bell Centre. For tickets to the game, click here.