One-and-done chances sink Canadiens in loss to Stars

Devin Shore had a goal and two helpers to get the Stars a 4-1 win over the Canadiens.

MONTREAL—If you were only looking at the stat sheet, you’d call it a high-event night for Joel Armia and the Montreal Canadiens.

In truth, Armia, who led the Canadiens with five shots on net, eight total attempts, five hits, and was their second-most used forward, didn’t generate any real chances worthy of goals. And the Canadiens, who notched 35 shots on net and lost 4-1, played hard but didn’t deserve a better fate.

Sure, they hit the post three times, and Artturi Lehkonen missed a golden opportunity to put them up 1-0 when he earned a second-period penalty shot and booted it into Ben Bishop’s pads.

But just like those four opportunities, most of the ones the Canadiens had on Tuesday at the Bell Centre were of the one-and-done variety.

Digging further, Montreal’s special teams were also a mess, and there were too many players who, in spite of their best efforts, didn’t have the goods in this one.

That was great news for Stars forward Jason Spezza, who was skating in his 1,000th NHL game. It was great news for hometown coach Jim Montgomery, who was managing Dallas’s bench for the very first time against the team he grew up cheering for.

And Alexander Radulov, who spurned these Canadiens to sign with the Stars in the summer of 2017—after making the fans in Montreal fall in love with him throughout an exhilarating 2016-17 season—was more than happy to put the icing on the cake with an empty-net goal, even if he didn’t want to talk about it afterwards.

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Canadiens coach Claude Julien gave his input on why things turned out as they did.

“Well, it wasn’t the greatest game,” he said. “I’m not going to stand here and say our effort wasn’t good. There was a good effort. Now, did we play well enough? That’s another thing. I don’t think we played well enough. But I can’t complain about the effort. I think the guys were trying. Some nights things go a lot better than others.”

That’s a reality for every team—and one Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said on Monday that he expects his team to face more often than it had in establishing a 6-2-2 record through its first 10 games of the season.

That Game 11 played out as such clearly frustrated the Canadiens, who took seven minor penalties, including four in the third period while they were trying to chase down the lead.

They made it close when Brendan Gallagher stormed Bishop’s net and hacked away for a rebound while being pushed into the Stars goaltender.

The puck rolled off of Bishop’s back and into the net and counted as a goal after a lengthy video review revealed that Stars defenceman John Klingberg had pushed Gallagher enough for there to be no goaltender interference on the play.

That should have got the guys in red, white and blue to say to themselves, “This is how we’re going to score in this game.”

But what followed was more of the same perimeter offence.

“He’s a big goalie. Obviously he covers up a lot of space,” Gallagher said of the six-foot-seven giant that guards Dallas’s net on a nightly basis. “You have to make it tough. Those big guys, when you get traffic on them, that’s really how you score on them. That’s really the only way, and we didn’t do a good enough job of making it tough on him. Obviously he made some saves, but there were some opportunities on him that we left out there.”

Armia certainly made an effort, but not the type Gallagher is talking about.

Ditto for the rest of the Canadiens.

“There’s a lot of guys that are good right now that aren’t really scoring,” said Julien. “Lehkonen’s another one of them. They’re playing good hockey. We’re going to need them to score, and I think that it’s going to come. I really feel that those guys (Armia and Lehkonen, who have combined for three goals on the season) will eventually find the back of the net.

“But again, there was really not much on the other side of the coin from our lineup. I didn’t think that [Max] Domi’s line with [Jonathan Drouin] and Lehky—they just, they didn’t have it as much as they’ve had it lately. Things happen.”

Domi had come into the game on a six-game point streak but spent more time in the penalty box on Tuesday than he did in front of Bishop’s net.

And Drouin, who hit the crossbar in the second period, had two non-threatening shots on net.

“I’m not going to stand here and dwell on one game,” said Julien. “Let’s see what we can do and bounce back for the next one.”

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The Canadiens will have most of two days to figure out how to improve their penalty kill, which now ranks 18th in the NHL after giving up two goals to Dallas.

That will be a considerable challenge if top penalty killer Paul Byron, who left Tuesday’s game with a lower-body injury, is unavailable to play against the Washington Capitals on Thursday.

There’s a lot of work that needs to go into Montreal’s power play, as well, after failing to record more than a single shot on the four opportunities they had against Dallas.

This team has the work ethic to address all of that quickly. But it’s going to take working the right way to continue scoring goals and winning more games than they lose.

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