DENVER - If revenge is a dish best served cold, then the Pepsi Center's ice surface was a fitting backdrop for the Avalanche on Tuesday.
Nearly two months after the Canadiens humbled the Avs 10-1 at the Bell Centre, it was Colorado's turn to pay back the favor with a 4-0 shutout of the Habs at home.
"We knew they would come out hard, especially after the last game we played against them. It was unacceptable the way we started," underlined captain Max Pacioretty, who led the team with three shots, but continues to look for his 200th career goal. "We knew they would give their all after the result in our building, and we just played a very poor game."
Following Tuesday's morning skate, the Habs predicted the Avs would jump out to a hot start, and that's just what they did when Mikko Rantanen scored what would turn out to be the game-winner just 30 seconds after the opening puck drop.
"Mentally, I thought we were all ready to play, but that definitely didn't show on the ice. We knew they were going to come out hard," admitted Paul Byron, who still managed to keep a neutral differential on the night over 11:31 of ice time. "We knew after last game they had a lot to play for against us. They have a lot of pride, and we just weren't ready when the puck dropped. It's on us for that."
The result also supported a longstanding mantra in pro sports, as the Habs were bested by a team which trails them by 36 points in the league-wide standings.
"There are no easy games in the NHL. You can't really look at a record [at face value]," stressed Nathan Beaulieu, who played his 200th career game on Tuesday. "They have a lot of skilled players, and we knew they were going to come out hot because of what happened earlier in the season. There's really no excuse, we just weren't good enough from the beginning of the game."
Just as the Habs won together during a record-setting month of October, the team now intends to also stick together as they navigate their way out of a four-game rut in which they found the back of the net three times.
"We all hold ourselves accountable. We're going through a tough time, but all good teams go through adversity -- what's important is how we respond," continued Beaulieu, who fired two shots on goal over 19:30 of ice time. "There are things that need to be confronted, and it starts with all of us looking in the mirror."
Up next, the Habs will get a day to rest and regroup in Arizona before taking on the Coyotes on Thursday, in the first of three final games before the bye week.
"Every team goes through tough stretches. I think it's important we continue to have fun and not dwell on things when they're not going well," concluded goaltender Carey Price, who faced 26 shots at the Pepsi Center. "That's always seemed to be the recipe to get out of a funk, and that's what we're going to use.