MONTREAL - With some key elements missing from their roster, the Canadiens weren't able to keep the momentum going from their season-high three-game winning streak, falling 3-0 to the Minnesota Wild at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.
Although he was held out of practice on Wednesday, Andrew Shaw made it into the lineup to face the Wild. But Jonathan Drouin, who didn't return for the third period of Tuesday's game against the Vegas Golden Knights with an upper-body injury, was listed as day-to-day and sat out, and was joined on the sidelines by Shea Weber, who didn't play due to a lower-body injury.
Despite the absences, the Habs were ready to battle through their adversity and show they could win by committee when push came to shove.
"If you look at the lineup sheet, we're missing three of our top players [goaltender Carey Price being the third]. Just looking at it, it makes you think it's going to be a tough match," described Karl Alzner, who logged 19:43 of ice time, second among Habs defensemen behind partner Jeff Petry. "But I thought we played really well. All the guys were able to handle the extra load they had and the tough minutes, and we hung right in there. A bounce here and there could've won the game; with those guys out, that's a bit of a pat on the back."
Video: MTL Recap: Habs shut out by Dubnyk, Wild, 3-0
The Canadiens thought their recent offensive run would continue into Thursday when, just over six minutes into the game, Karl Alzner batted a puck in the air that sailed past Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk for what would've been his first goal as a Hab. But the goal was disallowed when a video review determined that No. 22's stick was above the crossbar when it directed the puck into the net.
Even though the Canadiens peppered Dubnyk with 29 shots by the end of the second, the Alzner goal reversal left the teams scoreless after two frames. In what was a tightly-contested, evenly-matched duel, both sides knew that the ever-important first goal would go a long way towards coming up with the win.
"It looked like Duby [Dubnyk] was feeling well over there. After the second period, you knew whoever popped that first one was going to have a big advantage," explained Charlie Lindgren, who finished the game with 32 saves of his own in his third start of the season. "It was a pretty good battle."
Video: Charlie Lindgren on playing his hometown team
The Wild's Jason Zucker then decided to embark on a third-period scoring spree to spoil Lindgren's five-game NHL winning streak in the Minnesota native's first contest against his childhood team. Zucker opened the scoring with a shorthander early in the final third and then provided the Wild with some insurance when he deflected a Nino Niederreiter shot past Lindgren - whose parents made their first visit to the Bell Centre on Thursday - from in front of the net.
If Alzner's goal being disallowed was unpleasant for the home squad, then one could imagine that having a second goal disallowed would hurt that much more, especially given that the Habs were down 2-0 at that point. Yet that's exactly what happened after Bruce Boudreau decided to challenge Charles Hudon's marker from in the crease, much to the disagreement of the vocal Montreal crowd.
Zucker would complete the hat trick with an empty-netter to seal the deal. But head coach Claude Julien, whose club's 41 shots on net marked the seventh time this season they had reached or exceeded the 40-shot plateau, wasn't too down on his troops after they pulled together a 60-minute effort despite having to do without some important cogs in their machine.
"I found we did quite well on the backend, but that doesn't mean we didn't miss a guy like Shea Weber. That doesn't mean we didn't miss a guy like Jonathan Drouin. But that's part of hockey. Injuries happen during a season and you have to manage it," concluded Julien, who coached his 200th game with the Canadiens. "Tonight, we still gave ourselves a chance to win."