Well, you can’t win ’em all. And last night at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens certainly didn’t win enough of the battles against an Anaheim Duck team that walked into Ottawa 24 hours and beat the Senators 4-3, and then bussed into Montreal and beat the Canadiens 6-4.
On a night when the Habs outshot the Duck 51-25, the Canadiens could do little right in front of their goaltenders. That’s right: goaltenders, as in “plural.” Jarovslav Halak got the start, and was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on just 12 shots. Halak wasn’t great, neither were the players in front of him. Carey Price, who had been given the night off after battling the stomach flu for most of the week, was pressed into service, and didn’t fare much better. The Ducks continued their .333 batting percentage as they scored all six of their goals on their first 18 shots.
Alex Tanguay with a pair, Saku Koivu and the always-impressive Tom Kostolpoulus scored for the Canadiens, who suffered their first loss in regulation play to move their season record to 5-1-and-1.
Chris Higgins made his debut after sitting out since the start of the season with a groin injury and didn’t look out of place in his 18:05 of ice time. Although his giveaway resulted in a goal by Ryan Getzlaf, Higgins made a lovely pass out from behind the net to set up the Koivu goal. Although Koivu and Higgins were reunited on that play, Higgins spent most of the night on a line with Kostopoulos and Robert Lang, while Koivu again skated with Tanguay and Guillaume Latendresse.
The goal by Kostopoulos early in the second gave the Canadiens a short-lived 3-2 lead. However, Corey Perry scored less than one minute later to tie it, and Chris Kunitz put another past Halak to chase the netminder, and give the Ducks a 4-3 lead; one they did not relinquish.
The Canadiens struggled mightily in front of both Halak and Price: a minus two on the night for Andrei Markov, who gave the puck away three times. And then there was Patrice Brisebois, who, by and large, has been a pretty effective performer for the Habs along the blueline this season. However, last night, with Ryan O’Byrne in the press box as a healthy scratch, Brisebois seemed to spend more time on his knees, then on his skates. It wasn’t pretty, but he wasn’t alone.
There was more good news on the injury front earlier in the day. Andrei Kostitsyn skated with his teammates at practice, and could be good to go when the Carolina Hurricaines come to town Tuesday night.