You would think that nothing would need to be said to a team that is sitting in the precarious 8th position (and final playoff position) in the Eastern Conference and is playing the team that is sitting right in front of them in 7th. But apparently this year's version of the Montreal Canadiens does need to be reminded of where they are in the league and how important it is for them to come out ready for big games. That quality in a team does not bode well for the future.
From beginning to end the game was without life for either team. Ottawa did not play a spectacular game (they had 6 minor penalties and were outshot), but did what they had to to win. It was a game without atmosphere on the ice or in the stands. The fans in attendance were taken out of the game due to the dull product on the ice.
The scoring ice was broken in the 1st period by the visitors on a shorthanded goal by Zach Smith (his first career goal in his fifth game) of Ottawa. The goal occurred because Benoit Pouliot fanned on a pass and Daniel Alfredsson, who was making his return to the Senators line up after being out with a separated shoulder, picked it up and sent Smith off on a breakaway. Smith made no mistake rifling the shot over goaltender Carey Price's right shoulder.
It only took 83 seconds for Benoit Pouliot to redeem himself by planting himself in front of Ottawa goaltender Mike Brodeur and redirecting home off the far post a centering pass by Scott Gomez. The 1st period ended 1-1 and with the home team outshooting the visitors, but the game was nothing to write home about. You never had the feeling that Montreal was "in" this game.
Even when they took the lead early in the 2nd period you did not feel confident. At 2:05 Tomas Plekanec snapped a five game pointless streak by putting one past Brodeur from a seemingly impossible angle. That was the high point of the 2nd period for the Habs as the Ottawa Senators took advantage of the numerous errors by the home side.
These errors led to two goals by the Senators. Goaltender Price gave up a big rebound off a point shot by Matt Carkner and captain Alfredsson was there to collect the rebound then put it through Price's legs. Next up was another point shot by Chris Phillips (assisted by former Hab Alex Kovalev) that it seemed that Price should have stopped even though it appeared to slightly change direction in front of him.
It was another game in which Carey Price did not look entirely comfortable in nets. All night long he seemed to be battling the puck and was giving up large rebounds. He even got into the giveaway fever that the Canadiens were under all game by once or twice mishandling the puck himself. Despite the fact that coach Jacques Martin when questioned after the game said that he thought Price was "excellent", I don't think that Price made a strong argument for himself as the team's number one goaltender.
In the 3rd period the Habs did put some pressure on the Senators, but rookie goalie Brodeur stopped all attempts. They especially had some good chances during a late power play opportunity, but the leagues number one power play let the team down on this evening being 0-6 and giving up one shorthanded goal.
All hopes for the equalizer ended when, after Martin had pulled Price, Mike Fisher scored into an empty net to make the score 4-2 for Ottawa.
For the present with the loss the Habs find themselves out of the playoff picture in 9th position with the New York Islanders sliding ahead of them with a victory Saturday night. After the game a stat was bandied about that the Canadiens had committed 30 turnovers over the course of this game. Stats can sometimes misleading (like Montreal being the number one power play team in the NHL), but this one paints an accurate picture of the game. Montreal played a very loose and not very focused game. This is difficult for all fans of the team to accept.
While this loss is a hard one to swallow the Habs don't have the luxury of dwelling on it as they have a game tonight against the New York Rangers. The Rangers are a team ahead of them in the standings. It is again a 4 point game and seemingly a must win. Let's see how the Canadiens react to this after failing miserably at it on the first night. It offers them a chance at redemption in their fans' and own eyes.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Gord Dwyer and Eric Furlatt
Linesmen: Brian Murphy and Steve Barton
-Goals: 1st Period:
11:26 – Ottawa – (sh) Zack Smith assisted by Daniel Alfredsson
12:49 – Montreal – Benoit Pouliot assisted by Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta
2:05 – Montreal – Tomas Plekanac assisted by Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek
3:45 – Ottawa – Daniel Alfredsson assisted by Matt Carkner and Mike Fisher
5:07 – Ottawa – Chris Phillips assisted by Alex Kovalev
19:34 – Ottawa – (en) Mike Fisher assisted by Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Kelly
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 32
-Final Score: Montreal: 2