The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Coming off a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien opted for wholesale adjustments to his forward lines, inserted backup goaltender Al Montoya and settled in to watch his team eventually fall 5-1 to the Los Angeles Kings.
It was Montreal’s sixth loss in a row and it was the third time in the sequence they failed to score more than one goal on at least 35 shots.
The team’s power play went 0-for-4 on Wednesday and is now 1-26 to start the season. Their penalty kill, which came to Los Angeles as the 22nd-most effective in the NHL, allowed the Kings to score on one of their three attempts. Sufficed to say things didn’t go better for them at even strength.
Here’s what we took away from the game.
The captain’s rudder is broken
Do a quick Twitter search for Max Pacioretty.
Don’t do that if you’re Pacioretty, himself, though.
The captain of the Canadiens is getting roasted there, on talk radio, in bars around the city and in virtually every pocket of the Canadiens’ fan base.
Pacioretty has one goal on the season and seven shots on net in his last three games. He isn’t getting the puck in transition, he isn’t getting it in the offensive zone, and he appears to be completely lost at the moment.
“I’ve never really had this happen before,” Pacioretty told the Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan following Tuesday night’s loss in San Jose. “I’m the only one to blame for this. The team relies on me heavily to produce and to score goals and to create offence and it just hasn’t been there. I feel like there’s areas … I feel like every area I could be better in and I’m just looking to get that puck and get confidence with that puck, and it’s not there right now.”
He had Alex Galchenyuk to his right for Wednesday’s game, but the result was the same. The chemistry with new top-line centre Jonathan Drouin has proven to be elusive thus far, and that has to be a concern for Julien — and for the Canadiens as a whole.
It would be a total shock to see Pacioretty in the same spot come Friday in Anaheim.
Montoya’s brilliance shows Price’s struggles aren’t to blame
The Canadiens’ backup played a brilliant game, stopping 13 of 14 shots in the first period and all 17 he faced in the second. He had no chance on the goals scored by Mike Cammalleri and Adrian Kempe in the third period.
Carey Price is admittedly struggling. He told reporters in San Jose that he can’t continue to allow four goals per game if the Canadiens are going to win.
But he can’t play much better than Montoya did on Wednesday, and neither of them can score goals.
Both Price and Montoya are currently occupying the least enviable position in all of hockey.
Benn going rough
Jordie Benn was made a healthy scratch in San Jose and returned to play in Los Angeles — on the right side of the ice, where he’s admittedly most comfortable.
Benn had struggled immensely through Montreal’s first five games on the left side, where he hadn’t really played for any sustained period of time throughout his previous NHL experience.
He is the type of player who’s at his best when you don’t notice him, and through two and a half periods of Wednesday’s game he was virtually invisible.
One bad decision changed all of that when he made an ill-timed pinch in the offensive zone and left forward Charles Hudon defending a two-on-one break going the other way.
Kempe’s first of three goals in the third period was a dagger the Canadiens couldn’t recover from.
Third-period woes continue
Yes, a 2-1 lead was too much to overcome for the Canadiens, who have scored just once in the third period this season. It was too much to overcome against the stingiest team through the early part of the 2017-18 campaign (L.A. has only allowed 10 goals). Too much to overcome for a team playing its second game in as many nights.
The boys in bleu, blanc et rouge had their chances. They had 12 shots on net in the final frame but none of them got by Jonathan Quick, who has led the Kings to their best start to a season in franchise history (5-0-1).
It’s a repetitive storyline for the Canadiens, who now own the third-worst record in the NHL (1-5-1).