MONTREAL - The Canadiens got off to a strong start on Thursday night, but they couldn't generate much of anything after that.
After Alex Galchenyuk snapped a nine-game goal drought just 6:46 into the opening frame with his 16th goal of the year, Bill Peters' contingent went on to score four unanswered goals as Claude Julien's troops dropped a 4-1 decision at the Bell Centre.
Video: MTL Recap: Galchenyuk tallies in 4-1 loss to Canes
The loss - coupled with a Senators victory - brings Ottawa to within one point of the Canadiens, who still sit atop the Atlantic Division with 91 points through 74 games. The Senators, however, still have one game in hand on their rivals as the regular season continues to wind down.
Following Thursday night's defeat, Julien didn't mince words when it came to sharing his thoughts on his players' inability to keep up with a streaking Hurricanes squad all evening long.
"Our effort was unacceptable. We lacked focus and we weren't really on point. We went up against a team that's been playing good hockey lately and they showed us why," said Julien, in reference to Carolina's impressive 6-1-3 record in their last 10 games. "They won a lot of the one-on-one battles. We didn't win enough faceoffs and we were always running after the puck instead of starting out with it. Those things make it tough to win games. It's an unacceptable effort by our entire group."
Video: Claude Julien's postgame press conference vs. CAR
To a man, the Habs were in complete agreement with their bench boss after letting valuable points simply slip away at such a critical time of the year.
"We talked about creating the lead in the locker room before the game. We got it, and then we felt like we let the game slip away from us. That's unacceptable at home," said Galchenyuk, who Julien featured on the wing on a line with Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen. "We've got to find a way to look at our mistakes and bounce back because we play every other day. We've got to find a way to win the next one [on Saturday night]."
Video: Alex Galchenyuk on playing with Shaw and Lehkonen
That's for sure, especially with the Senators coming to town. It remains to be seen if that line will stay intact for the next installment of the divisional showdown, but there's no denying they managed to click at times against the Hurricanes.
"I thought we had a pretty good start. We created a lot of chances right away and I think Shawzy played great and Lehky, too. We battled hard," said Galchenyuk. "But, it's not enough at the end. We wanted to create more, of course, but looking at the score being 4-1, it didn't go our way. It's tough looking back at the game."
Tough, yes, but captain Max Pacioretty insists there's no reason whatsoever to press the proverbial panic button. After all, the Canadiens still hold the division lead and they've got a good opportunity to up their advantage further come Saturday night on home turf.
"We're in a good spot right now. Let's not get dramatic or carried away. We like our team. We're trending the right way," said Pacioretty. "This wasn't a great game. We have some things we can work on, but let's not take it too far."
Video: Max Pacioretty on the loss to Carolina