MONTREAL – Things just aren’t going the Canadiens’ way right now. They haven’t for the last two weeks.
On Thursday night, Michel Therrien’s troops suffered their sixth loss in their last seven games dating back to December 3, dropping a 3-0 decision to the Los Angeles Kings at the Bell Centre in their final home game of the calendar year. Despite registering a season-high 45 shots on goal, the Canadiens simply couldn’t solve netminder Jonathan Quick, who stymied the home side all game long to pick up his second shutout of the season.
“They’re a hell of a hockey team over there. That’s the tightest checking game I’ve ever played in the NHL. They force everything and they don’t give us much room. For us to get close to 50 shots on net, I thought we played a pretty good game,” offered defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who logged 22:30 of ice time in the loss playing alongside P.K. Subban on the Canadiens’ top pairing. “It all comes down to results. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the job done again.”
That being said, the Canadiens weren’t about to offer up any excuses in the aftermath of their 10th regulation-time loss of the year. These days, they just aren’t putting the puck in the net. It’s really as simple as that.
“The puck hasn’t bounced our way lately. That’s for sure. But, to say singlehandedly that’s why we’re losing, that’s not the truth. For sure, we can play better. I don’t think we were particularly bad against the Kings, except we had chances and didn’t score. They scored on the chances they created,” explained Lars Eller, who came close to beating Quick on a short-handed breakaway opportunity, only to see the puck hit the post behind the two-time Stanley Cup champion and former Conn Smythe Trophy winner. “[Scoring on that play] would have made a difference, but it doesn’t mean we would have won the game. Getting that first goal was huge. Quick played a great game.”
As did two-time Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty, who scored what proved to be the game-winner at the 14:47 mark of the second period, before making a remarkable cross-ice pass to sniper Anze Kopitar 95 seconds later for the Kings’ second goal of the night. Mike Condon had no chance on the play.
“You give a guy an inch, and he’ll take it. He’s a special hockey player and he took advantage of a couple of mistakes we made and capitalized on them,” mentioned Beaulieu, who is all too familiar with Doughty’s skill-set, having skated alongside him all summer long in Southwestern Ontario. “Still, I don’t want to talk too much about the negatives because I think we played a hard-fought game. I think we have to sit down and find some positives out of it.”
Therrien is taking that approach as his squad prepares to embark on an extended road swing that will see the Canadiens play their next eight games away from the friendly confines of the Bell Centre.
“The guys had another excellent work ethic tonight. We went up against a goaltender playing at the top of his game. We didn’t lose this game because of a lack of effort,” explained Therrien, who will lead the Canadiens into Dallas to battle the league-leading Stars on Saturday night. “During this tough stretch, we’ve faced adversity and the wins have been hard to come by. Looking back, though, I think we dominated the majority of these games. This stretch will make us a stronger team in the long run. That’s why there isn’t any panic. We’re still playing good hockey.”
That’s not to say that the Canadiens are feeling especially good about themselves as they prepare to fly to the Lone Star State on Friday afternoon. A win would change that, though. Frankly, it would do a world of good.
“It’s a challenge [to stay positive]. In general, while I’ve been here, we’ve had a team that responds well to these kinds of challenges. We have a strong degree of confidence in the room. I still think it shows on the ice,” concluded Eller. “I think we had the right attitude against the Kings. We came to play. We’re not getting outplayed. Most nights, we outshoot our opponents. Maybe we can get a little more on the inside. We need to grind a little more to get those rebounds, and there are a couple of things we can do better. But, we’re not far away.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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