MONTREAL— Brendan Gallagher said it perfectly as he made his way out of the dressing room following his 10-minute media session and a 3-2 loss for his Montreal Canadiens.
Gallagher yelled a four-letter expletive at the top of his lungs.
The Canadiens needed to win on Monday, but after taking a 2-0 lead on Gallagher’s goal at the 1:52 mark of the first period they squandered this game. Between his 19th marker of the season and the Coyotes making it 2-2 in the 17th minute of the second period they had three power-play opportunities and a full two minutes at 5-on-3, but failed to score. And it was in the second minute of the middle frame that their most important centre, Phillip Danault, was struck in the face by a shot that knocked out some of his teeth, cut him deep enough for stitches and forced him out of the game.
Danault did not return, and as the Canadiens were attempting to kill off the final seconds of a late third-period penalty to Joel Armia, his presence was sorely missed. The Coyotes got a goal from Jakob Chychrun with exactly one minute left and that was that.
Meanwhile, two of three teams the Canadiens are chasing in the standings, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers, lost in regulation. Not getting at least a point felt like a massively missed opportunity—not unlike Tomas Tatar’s miss on a 2-on-1 that would have given Montreal a 3-2 lead in the dying minutes of the third, or all the misses on their power-play opportunities before that.
So yeah, Gallagher summed it up pretty well as he left the room.
And teammate Nate Thompson was on the mark about where the Canadiens go from here.
“Win or loss, you have to move on,” the 35-year-old said. “We don’t have time to sulk here. We have to move on and get ready for Boston.”
It is against the NHL-leading Bruins that the improbable push towards the playoffs will continue for the Canadiens on Wednesday. They will not have their best defenceman at their disposal for that game—they’re waiting for conclusive results on the lower-body injury Shea Weber suffered in New Jersey one week ago—and it’s entirely possible Danault, who requires dental work according to Canadiens coach Claude Julien, won’t be available either.
As one Montreal player said, “It didn’t look good when he went down, but we don’t know how serious it is.”
Tatar wasn’t entirely sure what happened on the play in question after the puck left his stick, but he was mortified to see it had struck Danault and left him face-down on the ice.
“I don’t know if it hit something,” the Canadiens’ leading scorer said.
Tatar’s shot hit Coyotes defenceman Jordan Oesterle’s skate and deflected into Danault’s face, and the Canadiens fell apart for the next 17-and-a-half minutes.
They were out-shot 16-3 and out-scored 1-0. And despite their push in the third, they couldn’t solve Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta.
“We didn’t create enough,” said Gallagher.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said to explain why they missed on their four-minute power play that started in the final two minutes of the first period and bled into the first three minutes of the second—and on the 5-on-3 opportunity they got in between. “All over it, we weren’t good; entries weren’t good; once we got set up, we didn’t shoot the puck enough; we didn’t find a way to get loose pucks. It just wasn’t good enough. And we know the answer, we just didn’t execute. We didn’t do it and that’s the disappointing part.”
You can’t really blame Gallagher and the Canadiens for being frustrated about that. You can’t blame them for being frustrated about letting precious points in the standings slip away.
They have fought tooth-and-nail to keep their slim playoff hopes alive—winning nine of the 12 games leading into Monday’s contest despite continuing to deal with a rash of injuries to key players. Just when it appears promising that they’ll return to full health, they lose irreplaceable players.
Gallagher missed a total of 10 games with a concussion and only returned to action on Jan. 30. Jonathan Drouin was the team’s third-leading scorer when he suffered a torn tendon in his left wrist that knocked him out of action from Nov. 15-Feb. 8. Paul Byron, a key two-way player and an assistant captain, was lost in the same game as Drouin and hasn’t played since. Armia, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Victor Mete all suffered injuries that kept them out of big games along the way. And to see Danault go down just two games after Weber has to feel like a gut-punch for this group.
“He does so much for us,” said Gallagher. “You see when he goes he literally plays in every situation. We put a lot of responsibility on him and he takes a lot of pride in that. It’s one of those things (that) when you lose bodies like that it’s not really one guy that can replace him, because he is so important. But I think you just throw a little bit more responsibility to everyone, which we’ll find out how he’s doing but we may need to deal with (his absence).”
We’d say the word he screamed afterward was the most appropriate way to describe that situation.