Not all losses are created equal. That was better. Much better from the Montreal Canadiens.
Jesse Ylonen scored his first NHL goal, Jonathan Drouin played one of his better games of the season but the Canadiens lost 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins for their seventh straight defeat.
Another loss isn’t unexpected. But at this point for the Habs, it’s about the process instead of the result.
Compared to their lifeless performance against the Blues on Saturday night, that was a game their fans could be relatively proud of.
The ears of the Penguins and Habs fans had to have been ringing after the first period.
There was a chorus of posts, three in total from both teams who seemed up for the game. Nick Suzuki whacked at a loose puck in the slot that bounced off Pittsburgh goalie Tristan Jarry’s left post. The Penguins went flying the other way on a 2-on-1 and Jason Zucker rang the iron to the left of Jake Allen.
Next, it was Mike Hoffman who tried to sneak one short side past Jarry but heard the familiar ring of the post. But not before Pittsburgh jumped out to a lead.
The Montreal Canadiens got caught running around in their zone just a little bit. The puck caromed into the path of Sidney Crosby, who swung a leg at it soccer style. The puck popped up into the air and before Allen could reach out and get a glove on it, Kasperi Kapanen cheekily nudged it past him in mid-air to give the home team the 1-0 lead.
Paying the price
The Habs put themselves behind the eight ball early in the middle period. Alexander Romanov and Joel Armia put Pittsburgh on an extended 5-on-3 that could have turned into a turkey shoot.
But the Canadiens put their bodies on the line, got into the passing lanes and blocked shots when they needed to. Somehow, the Habs survived.
Unfortunately the visitors couldn’t stop taking penalties. The Penguins were back on the power play shortly thereafter and finally got their goal. The white hot Evan Rodrigues blew a one-timer past Allen from the left dot to make it 2-0.
For 14 whole seconds.
Offense? What offense?
Laurent Dauphin, who centred the best Habs line of the night, got in on the forecheck right iff the draw. He turned the puck over deep in Pittsburgh’s zone. Drouin was all alone in front of the net, took the pass from Dauphin and deked out Jarry with a backhand, top cheese to cut the lead to 2-1.
Drouin was again front and center on the Montreal Canadiens first power play of the game. Mike Hoffman, Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, Ben Chiarot and Drouin were the Habs new look first wave of the man advantage.
And they tried to put on a show.
The five men snapped the puck around the ice the entire two minutes, pulling and prodding the league’s top penalty kill for two straight minutes. It’s safe to say they’ll likely be the Habs first wave for the foreseeable future.
Pointe-Claire native Mike Matheson beat a screened Allen short side to pad the Penguins lead to 3-1. But in the waning seconds of the period, a youngster brought a smile back to the faces of Habs fans.
Jesse Ylonen looked the part of a regular NHLer last night with both his speed and hands. He, Dauphin and Drouin somehow found chemistry that head coach Dominique Ducharme has long been looking for. Drouin drove in to the Penguins zone down the right side and simply dropped the puck past to a trialing Ylonen. The Finn unleashed a bomb from just inside the blueline to beat Jarry for his first ever NHL goal and cut the lead to 3-2.
More posts please!
The Penguins broke the spirit of the Montreal Canadiens just seconds in to the third period. Brian Dumoulin’s shot found a way through some bodies and beat Allen 28 seconds in to the period to make it 4-2.
That’s what you call a killer.
Credit to the Habs, they didn’t quit like they have so many times this season. But Brian Boyle picked the pocket of Ryan Poehling just before the halfway mark of the period and beat Allen with a beauty wrister top shelf to make it 5-2.
Poehling nearly made up for his blunder seconds later. Somehow, the Habs centreman found himself on a breakaway but put his forehand chance off the crossbar. Cole Caufield was next to get in on the iron action, drilling one off the bar with only a few minutes left. It was a goal that would have done a world of good for Caufield, who should have been rewarded for another dangerous night at the office.
In the end, the Penguins clamped down the neutral zone and gave the Canadiens very little apart from those two chances. Ylonen nearly had his second as he batted away at a loose puck in front but Jarry shut the door.
The Montreal Canadiens fell to 6-21-3 on the season. They are next in action Thursday when the Philadelphia Flyers invade the Bell Centre.