New era. Same Montreal Canadiens.
The mere mention of the name Jeff Gorton wasn’t going to fix the myriad of problems that have plagued the Habs his season.
But the team continued to be consistently inconsistent in their 2-1 home loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
First ten minutes of the first period? Two shots on goal.
First ten minutes of the second? Two shots on goal.
The Habs continue to search for consecutive wins. Appropriate because they’ve hardly been able to string together two solid periods all year long.
The Habs flirted between dominating and being dominated the entire game against the Canucks.
Staking his claim
The Montreal Canadiens, again, chose to sleepwalk through the start of a game. Again. With Vancouver playing their second game of a back-to-back, not to mention a spirited affair with the Bruins last night, the Habs should have been the better team to begin the game.
They weren’t. Jake Allen was called into action several times and was at his efficient best, making solid positional saves without doing anything spectacular. Unfortunately there was nothing he could do on Elias Petersson’s blast on the power play. It was all too easy for Quinn Hughes to put the puck into the Swede’s wheelhouse and he found the far top corner perfectly to make it 1-0.
But at the midway point of the first period, the Habs flipped the proverbial switch and started to play some hockey.
Per Natural Stat Trick the Canadiens, despite their poor start, ended the period with a resounding lead in the high-danger chances 7-1 over Vancouver. And things all tied up at 1-1.
Ryan Poehling played like he’s trying to convince the new boss that he should never see Laval again. The Habs most consistent player by a mile, he drove hard to the net off an unforced turnover in the neutral zone by Vancouver. Jonathan Drouin held the puck driving in on the left and weighted a perfect pass to the back post. Poehling deftly tipped it past Demko for his fourth of the season. The centreman is now tied for third on the team in goals. And he’s played just 10 games.
Poehling’s battle level, skating and tenacity are at an NHL level for the first time in his career. No matter what the message is from Gorton and company, his days with the Rocket are over.
More consistency please
The Montreal Canadiens learned their lesson and played a solid twenty minutes in the middle period.
Kidding of course.
The Habs again got cratered by the Canucks through the first 10 minutes. They again only mustered two shots on goal. And Jeff Petry continued to struggle. With some help from Josh Anderson.
Anderson picked up the puck along the left boards in his defensive zone and skated towards the corner. The big winger went to reverse the puck to Petry in the corner but the two got their signals crossed. The lack of communication turned the puck over to Bo Horvat. It was as simple as passing the puck to Conor Garland alone in front of the net and the Canucks winger scored his seventh goal of the season to give the visitors the edge 2-1.
Yet again, the Habs got their act together the final ten minutes of the period. Alexander Romanov showed off some dirty dangles to get into the slot before his shot was blocked. Christian Dvorak had a glorious chance in the slot on a 3-on-1 blocked. Demko turned spoiler the rest of period with two great saves on Jonathan Drouin to keep his team ahead on the scoreboard. Cole Caufield found Drouin with a great seam pass but the Canucks goalie calmly snatched the one-timer out of the air with the glove. Poehling then tried to return the favour to Drouin at the back post but he couldn’t elevate the shot on the backhand and Demko’s sprawling left pad denied him a sure goal.
The push comes up short
The Montreal Canadiens finally put together a relatively complete period of hockey together in the third. There were some nervy moments with the Canucks on the power play but Alexander Romanov was terrific in keeping Petersson shackled in his office.
But despite looking better on the second of two power plays the final twenty minutes and spending more time in Vancouver’s zone, the Habs were only able to produce two high-danger scoring chances. The Canucks kept the Canadiens to the outside for the most part despite zone time in their end. And when there was a moment for the Habs offensively, their goalie was there to bail them out
Demko made a spectacular save on Ben Chiarot in tight to essentially ice it. The Vancouver goalie stayed with the Canadiens defenceman as he drifted to his right, throwing out the two-pad stack to deny Chiarot his fifth goal on the season. That chance occurred with just over three minutes left. The Habs wouldn’t get a better one the rest of the way.
The Montreal Canadiens fell to 6-16-2 on the season with the loss. They are back in action on Thursday when the Colorado Avalanche roll into the Bell Centre.