MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens have relied on the league's top power play to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but that same power play cost them a crucial two points Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.
The Canadiens went 0-for-6 with the man advantage and allowed a short-handed goal in a 4-2 loss to the Senators, wasting an opportunity to leapfrog both Ottawa and the New York Rangers into sixth place in the conference standings.
Instead, the Habs find themselves in ninth.
"Special teams have won us a lot of games," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "Tonight, it was our downfall."
The Canadiens had seven shots on goal on their first five power-play chances of the game before firing six pucks on net on their sixth and final chance late in the third period. Senators rookie goaltender Mike Brodeur came up with several big stops to maintain a 3-2 Ottawa lead on that final power play, but Martin didn't feel he had much work to do through the first five chances of the game.
"I would say on our first five power play chances we didn't create a single scoring opportunity," Martin said. "Even if you don't score, you can create some momentum in a game by creating scoring chances. But we had no movement, no puck support, and that was the difference in the game."
The Habs power play entered the game as the league's best with a 25.7 per cent success rate. It had only been shutout twice in their previous six games and four times in their previous 12.
While the Canadiens have been deadly on the road at 33.8 per cent, it's a completely different story in front of the sometimes impatient Bell Centre fans with 17.3 per cent efficiency after Saturday's performance.
"That game was ours for the taking if we wanted to play," said winger Brian Gionta. "But we didn't."
The quarterback of the Canadiens power play, Andrei Markov, said the lack of success Saturday night boiled down to effort.
"Their penalty kill was aggressive, we didn't have any support, and they just outworked us," he said. "They were better."
When asked if he could explain being outworked in game against a team the Canadiens are battling for a playoff spot, Markov thought about it and couldn't come up with an answer.
"Actually, I can't explain that," he said. "Everybody knew that was a huge game for us, and we just lost the game. They were better, they outworked us, and there's no excuse for us."
Montreal will be back on the ice Sunday in another four-point game in New York against the Rangers, and Martin sees that as the lone positive coming out the loss.
"The good thing is we play again tomorrow night, it's a chance to make up for this game," he said. "We're playing a team we trail by one point, so it's an opportunity to move up the standings."