It took 10 minutes and 24 seconds for Alex Galchenyuk to loft a wrist shot into Cam Ward’s glove. It was the first of seven shots the Canadiens recorded in the frame—all of them completely harmless. And to no one’s surprise, they had zero goals to show for their efforts.
Things obviously didn’t go much better for Montreal for the final 40 minutes of what turned out to be a 2-0 loss to Carolina.
Here are our takeaways from the game:
It raised a lot of questions back home on Tuesday, when none of the Canadiens responded after forward Paul Byron was pasted into the end boards from behind by Colton Parayko with just a couple of minutes remaining in a game they were trailing 2-0 to the St. Louis Blues.
The Canadiens could fall back on the excuse that they didn’t want to negate the five-minute power play they were awarded and blow their best chance at tying the game.
But they had no excuse for the lack of response to Joakim Nordstrom’s huge hit on Jeff Petry early in the first period of their game against Carolina.
Petry has been forced into the No. 1 slot of Montreal’s defence in Shea Weber’s 25-game absence this season. As a result, he’s averaged more minutes per game than he’s ever had to play in his seven-year NHL career. He’s played his heart out.
But no one on the Canadiens side thought to step in, early in a 0-0 game, to defend him—or to make the Hurricanes feel like things might not be that easy for them on this night.
In a lost season—the Canadiens are double digits out of a playoff spot—all that’s left to play for is pride. If this team can’t show some over their remaining 31 games, there won’t be much of an incentive for their fans to continue to buy tickets or watch them on television.
Montreal’s style of play surely isn’t going to be what keeps fans engaged.
The road has been arduous
Getting back on the low-event hockey theme: The Canadiens took it to new heights in Carolina, registering no more than four high-danger scoring chances—by this scribe’s count—and by losing 38 of 48 faceoffs in the game.
Of course, numbers like that have defined their play away from the Bell Centre this season.
Thursday’s game marked the seventh loss the Canadiens have recorded in their last eight road games, dropping them to 8-15-1 in visiting rinks this season. They scored three goals in their one win in Washington over the Capitals on Jan. 19 and have managed only five goals in the seven losses.
Goaltending can’t save Canadiens
We’re calling a spade a spade by saying the goal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price allowed to defenceman Brett Pesce, which put the Hurricanes up 1-0 at the 2:43 mark of the second period, was a soft one.
A wobbling slap shot, tipped by Canadiens forward Daniel Carr some 50 feet away from Price’s crease, needs to be stopped.
But if the Canadiens had any resolve to stimulate something offensively, that one goal wouldn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. Price made 28 saves in the game and was helpless on Brock McGinn’s goal, scored with 5:09 left to play. He wasn’t the problem.
No one’s denying Price had a rough start to the year—he was 3-7-1 out of the gate, with an .877 save percentage—or that he’s allowed too many goals like the one Pesce scored in Thursday’s game. But he’s given the Canadiens a better chance to win games than they deserve on most nights since he returned from a lower-body injury that kept him out of action for three weeks between Nov.2 and Nov. 25.
Goaltending can save the Hurricanes
The win for Carolina pushed them into a tie with the Philadelphia Flyers for the final wild-card spot in the East.
That the Hurricanes have been this competitive is a testament to the young talent they have—like forwards Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen and defencemen Noah Hanafin and Haydn Fleury. They are a well-coached group, and they play a tight-style of game, giving you very little breathing room at either end of the ice. It’s no surprise to see they lead the league in shot-attempt differential. They have the best faceoff success rate in the NHL, and they have the speed and commitment to control the majority of play against any opponent.
But if the Hurricanes are going to squeeze their way into the playoffs, they need Cam Ward to be as good as he was against the Canadiens on Thursday. Heck, they’ll need him to be a lot better—against teams that will test him much more. They also need Scott Darling, who they signed to be their starter this past off-season, to step up. They won’t make it without improving on the second-worst five-on-five save percentage as a tandem in the league this season.