The wins just won’t come for the Montreal Canadiens.
Are they allergic to it? Did this team just use up all the luck the hockey gods had to offer four months ago?
This wasn’t like the losses to the Sharks, Sabres or Kings. Effort had nothing to do with it.
Instead, Samuel Montembeault’s first win as a Hab will have to wait as the Canadiens fell 4-2 to the Anaheim Ducks despite deserving a better fate in their second game of a back-to-back in California.
The early portion of the game followed a familiar script for the Montreal Canadiens. Under four minutes into the game, the Habs found themselves down by one. David Savard tried to knock down a puck behind the net out of mid-air. Instead, he batted the puck right to Ducks forward Sonny Milano. He one-touched the puck to Kevin Shattenkirk who quickly centred to Adam Henrique in front of the net. His hurried shot found a way through Montembeault to give the home team the lead.
But there was a twist in the tale, courtesy of Mike Hoffman on the power-play. If only all Habs power-play goals could be so simple. Chris Wideman got the won faceoff at the point and simply put the puck in his wheelhouse. Hoffman ripped a one-timer past Gibson’s left ear to level things up only a few seconds into the man-advantage.
Better but still bleeding on the PK
The Montreal Canadiens would have to rely on the bane of their existence against the Kings, their penalty kill, soon afterwards. Cedric Paquette was tossed from the game after a hit from behind on Trevor Zegras and the Habs found themselves shorthanded for five minutes. The Canadiens penalty killers were just a split second late as the puck went from the boards to the right of Montembeault to a wide open Anaheim forward. Villi Lettieri didn’t overthink it and quickly launched a shot into the vacant net to restore the Ducks lead.
Despite a continued parade to the penalty box and down a man, the Habs didn’t wilter. They found the grit and determination that has only been present in moments and controlled the balance of play in the second. Along with time in the Anaheim end, the Canadiens generated several quality scoring chances that just wouldn’t go in. Jake Evans hit a crossbar while Joel Armia and Mike Hoffman couldn’t find the back of the net despite great looks in the slot.
Finally, the Habs scratching and clawing paid off. A bouncing shot from the point courtesy of Jeff Petry bobbled around just in front of Gibson. Evans, who played a great game at less than 100 percent, worked his tail off to create separation from the defender and flub a shot past the Ducks goaltender to even things up at 2-2.
The push comes up short
In the third period, the Canadiens searched for the winner and nearly found it. Gibson got caught in no man’s land trying to play the puck but despite their best efforts, Evans and Armia couldn’t jam it home. On the power-play, some slick one-touch passing from Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Toffoli and Christian Dvorak led to a prime scoring opportunity for Dvorak in the slot. But Gibson denied both the shot and Toffoli on the rebound to keep the scored all tied up.
That save would prove to be a huge one as history was made at the Honda Center. A stretch pass from Cam Fowler to Ryan Getzlaf was deftly tipped by the Ducks captain into the path of Troy Terry who beat Alexander Romanov up the ice. Terry, the Ducks leading scorer early this season, went from backhand back to forehand and past an outstretched Montembeault to send the Anaheim players streaming onto the ice.
On the second night of a back-to-back, it became pretty clear that the goal took the momentum out of the Habs hands for good. Despite pulling the goalie and looking somewhat threatening up a man in the final two minutes, Sam Carrick’s first goal of the season into an empty net wrapped up proceedings for good.
Although they had a much better effort than against the Kings, the loss to the Ducks ran the Montreal Canadiens record to 2-8 on the season and 1-3 on their Western road trip. The Habs are back in action on Tuesday back at the Bell Centre against one of the two teams they’ve beat so far this year, the Detroit Red Wings.