Well, at least they weren’t embarrassed.
The Montreal Canadiens came up with a better performance but still came up on the short end of a 2-1 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night at the Bell Centre. This was a more determined effort by a Canadiens‘ club that was shellacked 6-1 in Boston 48 hours earlier. However, after disposing of the Flyers 5-3 in Philadelphia Oct. 13 in Montreal’s third game of the season, this one resembled the kind of hockey we saw from both clubs when they tangled in round two of the playoffs last season: solid goaltending on the part of Martin Biron, (who continues to look like a Vezina Trophy winner when the plays the Habs) and the inability of Canadiens‘ forwards to capitalize on their scoring opportunities.
With defenceman Mike Komisarek in sick bay as a result of an upper-body injury suffered in a fight with Milan Lucic of the Bruins Thursday night, the Flyers came out storming and came “this close” to scoring early, and often, when Glen Metropolit was left all alone in front of Jaroslav Halak two minutes into the game, and Scottie Upshall was allowed to barge in on the Montreal netminder just seconds later. However, the Canadiens got their sea legs after being outshot 5-0 through the opening five minutes, and finished the period with some wind in their sails, but failed to beat Biron; Robert Lang with perhaps the best scoring chance at the 12:00 mark of that opening period.
The Flyers lived up to their name and came out Flying in the second period, Upshall beating Halak with a tip-in at 5:30 of the middle frame, as Francis Boullion was unable to tie up the speedy and pesky right winger. The line of Saku Koivu-Alex Tanguay-Chris Higgins did generate some traffic in front of Biron in that period, but failed to beat the Flyer netminder; Tanguay coming close 10:00 in. Then, at 15:36 of the period, Ryan O’Byrne was caught with his back to the play, which enabled Jeff Carter to move in and beat Halak to make it 2-0 Philadelphia; the Flyers outshooting the Habs 18-7 in the period, which was indicative of the play.
Head coach Guy Carbonneau went back to the drawing board, mixing up his lines in the third period in an effort to squeeze some production out of a lineup that has produced a grand total of two goals in its last two games. Chris Higgins found himself playing with Alex Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec. That left Andrei Kostitsyn on a line with brother Sergei and Robert Lang; with Guillaume Latendresse shifting over to play with Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay.
It’s the Tanguay-Koivu-Latendresse trio that struck paydirt midway through the third period, with Tanguay netting his 8th of the season. Latendresse appeared to show a little more interest out there on the ice when playing with Tanguay and Koivu, with Koivu, again, being the most effective forward for Montreal.
Jeff Carter handed the Canadiens a gift at 16:49 of the the third period when he was called for hooking. But the sputtering Habs’ power play sputtered yet again, finishing the night 0-for-4. The Canadiens did pull Halak for an extra attacker in the final minute, to no avail.
There was precious little for the Bell Centre faithful to get excited about on this night, save for for Georges Laraque’s pummelling of Josh Gratton three minutes into the hockey game.
You certainly can’t fault Halak for this loss: the young goaltender kept his team in the game and gave the Canadiens a chance to win. However, the Habs again got zero production from the Kovalev-Plekanec-A.Kostitsyn line, lots of scoring opportunities, but a big goose egg, while playing with the man advantage, and yet more sketchy play in front of their goaltender.
A better performance, yes. However, a failed opportunity to grab two points, at home, against a team struggling to play .500 hockey, and a Flyer team without the injured Daniel Briere.
Guy Carbonneau’s quest to find out what’s ailing his hockey team, that has lost four of its last five, continues Sunday night in St. Louis, as the Canadiens open a three-game road trip, with stops in Carolina and Ottawa.