The Montreal Canadiens, who rallied from three separate deficits, were unable to make up for personal mistakes, and lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
The game seemed all but over in the first period. After 20 minutes, the Canadiens trailed in every aspect of the game, including scoring chances (15-3) and high dangerous chances (8-1), but were fortunate to be down only 2-0 at that point.
“It was quiet [in the dressing room after the first period]. There was nothing to say,” said Paul Byron following the game. “It was not a good period for us. The effort wasn’t there, and the other team skated faster, wanted the puck more than us, and that’s the reason is was 2-0.”
A Wild Back-and-Forth Affair
The silence must have been deafening because the Canadiens looked like a different team in the second period. Just over nine minutes into the frame, the Canadiens found themselves tied at two after goals from Charles Hudon and Brendan Gallagher minutes apart from each other. That tie lasted all but 29 seconds, however.
In the span of 27 seconds, the Canadiens surrendered two goals off mistakes from Jordie Benn and Victor Mete, and Carolina regained a 4-2 lead. Minutes later, the Canadiens were back, tying the game at four after goals from Hudon and Jeff Petry. Once again, though, the tie did not last long. With only six seconds to play in the second, off another Benn mistake, the Hurricanes scored to take a 5-4 lead.
Things were not much different in the third. The Canadiens again tied the game at five on a Max Pacioretty powerplay goal but surrendered a goal against just six seconds later. There would be no coming back from that deficit, as Montreal fell to Carolina for the third consecutive game.
Head coach Claude Julien, who believed the team was not prepared to play on Thursday, was visibly irritated following the loss.
“I’m disappointed in our preparation for the game,” said Julien. “The mistakes we saw tonight were mostly individual. As a player, you have to come prepared. When you look at the goals we gave up, it’s errors more so that are individual. If we had been better prepared, we wouldn’t have made those mistakes.”
Hudon, who scored twice and added an assist, played in one of his best games of the year, but was first to take blame for his error on Carolina’s game-winning goal.
“I should have been more responsible,” said Hudon. “I should have stayed in the middle. It was my guy who scored the goal so that’s very frustrating, and I take the blame for it.”
Gallagher, who scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season, was happy to see his team compete hard after a rough first period but insisted that they needed to be better on shifts after scoring a goal.
“Those shifts after goals for are when you really need to bear down and be good,” said Gallagher. “Those are huge momentum shifts, and we weren’t good enough in those little areas, and that’s why we lost.”
Despite their lackluster performance, Claude Julien was pleased about the team’s response in the second and third period but made it clear once again that individual performances needed to be better.
“In the second and the third, we did some good things offensively, but I thought we didn’t make good decisions individually,” said Julien. “You hope that it’s just that one game.”
The Canadiens will have to wait to find out if that’s the case. With no games scheduled until next Tuesday due to the NHL All-Star weekend, Montreal has time to reflect on the loss, something Julien hopes will lead to better performances in the future.
“It’s not about pointing the finger because you win as a team, and you lose as a team. But I would expect our players to be ready to play game and be focused,” said Julien. “Some of them were, but a lot of them weren’t, and that’s something we need to be better at. Pros need to be pros. We don’t babysit, we prepare guys. They have to be pros and be ready to play. That’s what good teams do.”