Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien looks on from the bench with players (from left) Max Pacioretty, Michael Bournival, Brendan Gallagher, Daniel Brière, Tomas Plekanec and Travis Moen, during the third period against the Washington Capitals in Montreal, Saturday, January 25, 2014.
Photograph by: Graham Hughes, THE CANADIAN PRESS
You know things are grim for the Canadiens when the loudest cheers for them at the Bell Centre are derisive ones.
A loud, sustained cheer erupted at 12:44 of the second period Saturday night when Daniel Brière simply unleashed a wrist shot at the Washington Capitals net. It was the Canadiens’ first shot on goal in the second period and only their fourth in the game at that point.
The Canadiens’ tiny shot tally at that juncture goes a long way toward explaining their dismal 5-0 loss to the Capitals. Taking 10 penalties didn’t help, either. Neither side was able to capitalize with the man advantage — not that it mattered for the Capitals, who scored five even-strength goals.
The Canadiens held a meeting after the game and when the doors to the dressing room finally opened to the media all the players were there. Coach Michel Therrien confirmed it was management’s decision to make them all available to the media.
“Obviously, we’re not playing good hockey and we need to find a way to turn things around.” captain Brian Gionta said.
“We had three shots through almost the whole second period. Forty minutes of play, we have three shots. We’re off our game. We’ve got to find a way to keep supporting each other and find a way out of this.”
When asked about the sarcastic cheer in the second period, Gionta said: “No one in this room is happy the way things have been going the last couple of games.
“There’s no one outside this room that cares more than anyone in this room. So we’re trying to figure things out and we’ll be a better team for it in the end.”
When it was put to Gionta by a reporter that some people were starting to wonder whether the players still want to play for Therrien, the captain said: “No, that has nothing to do with it.”
The Capitals outshot the Canadiens 12-3 in the first period, but it was the second period that was especially brutal for the Habs. The Capitals scored four even-strength goals, while the Canadiens had difficulty mustering shots on goals. Goaltender Carey Price was pulled after the Capitals’ fourth goal with backup Peter Budaj replacing him for the second time in three games. However, Price can’t be blamed for the Canadiens’ loss.
There’s “nothing good to take from that game,” Therrien said afterward.
“We’re going to move on. We’re facing adversity and we all know this,” the coach said, noting all teams face it, as do players through the course of their careers.
“It’s how we’re going to react facing adversity.”
The Canadiens have lost four games in a row and are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. The team is struggling defensively and has given up four or more goals in their last six games. But their problems stretch back farther than that. The last time the Habs posted back-to-back wins in regulation was Dec. 5 and 7.
The Toronto Maple Leafs overtook the Habs in the Atlantic Division Saturday night with their overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets and now sit in third place with 60 points. The Canadiens have 59 points with two games in hand over the Leafs.
The Canadiens were in Saturday’s game until they got scored on, Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges said.
“With the way we’ve been struggling as of late, we have to be more resilient mentally,” Gorges added. “Down one goal, down two goals, the game is far from over.
“But we’ve got a find a way to push back because no team is just going to give into us.”
The battle is finding that confidence “to make plays, to do the things you’re supposed to do and not be scrambly and running all over the ice and playing chaotic,” Gorges said.
It’s hard when things aren’t going your way to stay upbeat, the defenceman added. “But when things are going this way that’s when you have to simplify everything. You make the game easy on yourself.”
Lars Eller called Saturday’s loss a collective breakdown. “All the little details, all the small things that we’re not succeeding doing.”
Every team faces a rough patch in a season, Eller said, adding all that matters is what they do going forward.
“I think it starts with attitude,” Eller said. “If we bring the right attitude that we’ve done in the past, then confidence will follow, the right decisions will follow, all those things come, but it starts with attitude. And that’s what we’ve got to bring. We’ve got to get back to being tight as a unit and make sure everybody pulls in the same direction.”
Defenceman P.K. Subban said the Habs have a great group and “we believe that we can be that team that we were in November, where we were one of the hottest teams in the league and executing every night and performing. And we know we could do that.”
Subban said he was optimistic and noted the Canadiens have an opportunity to turn things around on Tuesday when they play the Carolina Hurricanes.
“For guys who have been in the league for a long time, this is nothing,” Subban said.
“This is good for our team. This is a positive thing. We’re going to get through it. We’re going to be better.”
Fans have a right to be frustrated, Subban added. “I’d be upset too. People are passionate about our team and we’re passionate about our jobs.”
He added: “We’ve just got to work through the process. It’s tough. You look at the Chicago Blackhawks, they went through the same thing. I don’t know if they lost five in a row or something like that. But teams go through it and that’s my point. And we’ve just got to work through it and stay positive. And we’ve got each other’s backs in here.”
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