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San Jose struggles

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

SAN JOSE – Northern California hasn’t been kind to the Canadiens in recent years. Unfortunately, history repeated itself once again on Monday night.

The Canadiens dropped their ninth straight decision to the San Jose Sharks on their home turf, falling 6-2 at the SAP Center to begin a four-game road trip. The last time the Habs managed to secure a victory at the building on West Santa Clara St. dates back to November 23, 1999 when the Sharks’ home rink was still known as the San Jose Arena.

“They’re a good team, obviously. We know that. We knew that on this road trip we were going to play some very good teams. But, for us, I don’t think we can be happy enough with our effort. We allowed them to have too much time and space. Good players are going to take advantage of it,” said Brendan Gallagher, who scored his 18th goal of the season on Monday night. “There are things that we can control every game. Our compete level and our battle level wasn’t where it needed to be.”

That was certainly the case come the start of the final frame. Down 3-2, the Canadiens allowed Pete DeBoer’s contingent to score two quick goals early that essentially zapped any momentum they’d established after cutting San Jose’s lead to a single tally through 40 minutes of play. Melker Karlsson and Nick Spaling’s goals at 2:14 and 3:37, respectively, ultimately put the contest out of reach for good.

“We weren’t good enough in the last 20. We were just a step behind. You do that against this team and they’re going to make you look bad. They made us look bad in the third,” said Lars Eller, referencing not only San Jose’s three third period goals, but also being outshot by a 14-6 margin along the way. “There’s absolutely no excuse. They had a trade deadline, too. They had a game last night. They were just better than us in the third. Plain and simple.”

It didn’t help the Canadiens’ cause that the Sharks’ top snipers were on top of their game from start to finish, either. Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski racked up three points each in the win, with Pavelski beating goaltender Mike Condon on two occasions, including late in the third period to cap the scoring.

“They had a lot of good looks and they buried them. That’s hockey sometimes, and we’ve got to be better,” said Condon, who stopped 30 of the 36 shots fired in his direction. “We’ve just to compete better. I thought they worked really hard behind the net and they did a really good job keeping pucks in at the blue line. I think they just outworked us.”

Head coach Michel Therrien didn’t mince words in his post-game press conference as his hockey club fell seven points out of a wild card spot with 19 games remaining on the schedule.

“We had a tough time getting engaged in this game. They were better than we were,” said Therrien, who will lead the Canadiens into Anaheim for their next outing on Wednesday night. “Nights like these are going to happen. We have a very young team right now. There are nights that are going to be tougher than others. This was one of those nights.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com

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