Frustration boils over for Canadiens after latest loss

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 33 shots, Bryan Rust scored his first goal of the season and the Penguins beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 Saturday night.

MONTREAL — Furious, frustrated, downtrodden; the Montreal Canadiens were all of these things after a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday.

How could they not be?

The Canadiens hadn’t strung together consecutive wins since Nov. 25 and Nov. 27 against the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils respectively.

Coming off a 2-1 win over the Devils in their last game, the Canadiens were hoping to buck the trend with a win over the Penguins.
But they couldn’t even muster a lead in Saturday’s game.

It boiled over for Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban who logged 30:01 against Pittsburgh, scored his first goal in 34 games, had four shots on net and another four that were blocked or missed.

It might have been the strongest game Subban had played in over a month, but that was of no consolation to him.

“I couldn’t give a s*** about my f****** first goal in however long,” he said. “It doesn’t f****** matter.”

Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, who threw around some foul language after a 6-2 loss to the Dallas Stars that kicked off a 2-6-0 road trip from Dec. 19 - Jan. 5, stopped mid-sentence to peer over a scrum of reporters to listen in on what Subban had to say.

Pacioretty delivered his comments in a cooler tone.

“It’s frustrating to lose a game today,” said Pacioretty. “We gotta score more than one goal to win the game.”

The Canadiens have only won two of 18 games in which they’ve scored two or less.

This is a team that led the NHL in scoring through their first 20 games, a team that was scoring three or more goals on a regular basis.
It’s a team that has now been held to three or less goals in 15 of their last 19 games.

“We gotta keep fighting,” said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. “We got chances, but we faced a goaltender that made some key saves.”

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 33 shots, but he wasn’t the only reason Montreal couldn’t score more than once.

“I think we weren’t good enough coming out of our zone,” said Subban. “As a group we just didn’t support each other well enough. We’re chipping the puck to nobody, we’re not moving our feet — that’s where it started.”

Where it ended was with the Canadiens unable to cash in on four power play opportunities, including a six-on-four chance with 20.3 seconds left in the third period.

A giveaway from Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov led to Pittsburgh forward Erik Fehr’s fifth goal of the season — this one into an empty net for insurance.

Subban, who is among the most creative players in the league, said the team abandoned its simple style in every zone.

“At times it was like Harlem Globetrotters out there, just moving the puck around and coming back in, regroup and [it’s] coming back at us,” he said. “We gotta understand that we have to play a certain way every night to have success. We didn’t do it consistently.”

Canadiens goaltender Mike Condon did his job consistently.

Condon kept the score at 0-0 after the Canadiens were outshot 12-5 in the opening period. He kept them in the game down 2-1 after two by making a couple of miraculous saves — none better than this one on Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

It would’ve been Condon’s fourth straight win, but his team couldn’t get the job done in front of him.

“Those saves don’t really matter unless you get two points,” said Condon.

Four days between Sunday and Montreal’s next game on Thursday might allow cooler heads to prevail, if they haven’t already.

But one glance at the Eastern Conference standings may turn Montreal’s frustration into concern.

The Canadiens are four points up on ninth-place Pittsburgh, and every playoff contending team below them in the standings will play multiple games while they remain idle.