MONTREAL -- The Habs suffered their first loss of 2017 on Monday, falling 4-1 to the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre.
After stringing together three straight wins away from home to start the year, it was surprising to see the Canadiens' streak snapped at the Bell Centre.
That's because Montreal enjoys a 15-4-2 record at home versus 10-6-4 on the road, although head coach Michel Therrien had some theories as to Monday's outcome, postgame.
"I can't explain it exactly, but the first game back from a long road trip is usually tough. [Washington] played a solid game, and we didn't. It's that simple," underlined the Habs bench boss, who prior to Monday, picked up 10 of a possible 14 points from a seven-game road trip which dated back to Dec. 23. "It's hard to say why, but it happens often. Not all the time, but often. The adrenaline isn't the same, and I saw that we weren't executing early on. When we play like that, we're obviously not at our best."
Video: Therrien's postgame presser vs. WSH
According to Paul Byron, who was back in the lineup after missing Saturday's game in Toronto with an upper body injury, the Canadiens head coach might be onto something.
"When you get back home after a long trip and see your family, sometimes you just kind of want to relax and settle in. Then you have a game right away, and you're just not ready to play," added the 27-year-old, who picked up his 12th assist of the season on Plekanec's lone tally. "We had a day off yesterday, and it takes a little bit of time to get back into it, and get the energy going. I thought we had a slow start tonight and gave them a lot of confidence. They made it difficult on us."
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Monday's game was night-and-day compared to the last time the two teams met in the American capital on Dec. 17.
That was the night the Habs' snapped a Capitals six-game win streak while Carey Price recorded his 250th career W.
"I don't think they played any differently this time," stressed defenseman Jeff Petry. "I think it was us who fed their forecheck early on in the game, and turned pucks over while letting them dictate the pace."
Case in point, the Habs allowed just 21 shots to the Caps in their first meeting this season, but were outshot 12-7 in the first period alone on Monday -- and 39-23 by the final whistle.
"We made too many mistakes. They played a good game, but we made it way too easy for them to come out at us," continued Tomas Plekanec, who ended an eight-game scoring drought with his power play marker. "Thanks to Pricey, we were in it until the end, but we've got to bounce back next game."
One positive to take into Wednesday's game in Winnipeg was the play of Plekanec on Monday, along with linemates Artturi Lehkonen and Byron.
All three combined on the assistant captain's fourth goal of the season, while also firing seven shots at Braden Holtby, and dishing out four hits.
Video: WSH@MTL: Plekanec knocks bouncing puck in for PPG
"I love to play with those guys. I played with Lehky a lot this year, and he's a great player," shared Plekanec. "Pauly's the same thing -- he's having a hell of a season and they both played a great game."
Indeed, the feeling was mutual, despite the loss.
"Yeah, those two guys are so easy to play with -- two really smart players who always do the right things," dished Byron, who now has a career-high 24 points total through 40 games. "They're working hard and I'm just trying to use my skill set to complement them. I thought our line worked pretty well together and we've just got to continue to get better."
Therrien hinted they may have the opportunity to do so, postgame.
"Plekanec's line was our best line on the ice," concluded the Habs bench boss. "They skated well, they made plays, and they attacked the net. They were a positive to take away from tonight."