Canadiens-Senators: Sens Outlast Defenceless Habs
- When all governments on the planet are doing everything they can to stimulate consumer spending, the Quebec government today decided that they will RAISE the retail sales tax. (Aside: As if it wasn't already tough enough for the Habs to recruit free agents to a place with the highest taxes on the continent.)
- As the Canadiens continue to struggle on defense, Ryan O'Byrne and Mathieu Dandenault continue to sit in the press box.
The game featured the Senators, another one of those teams below the Canadiens in the standings, but who have been red hot lately, including five straight wins at home.
The Sens had a great first period. They were aggressive, physical and deadly on the power-play. Ottawa was also the beneficiary of some good fortune.
The Canadiens actually opened the scoring on the first goal of the night by the Lapierre-Kostopoulo-Latendresse line.
When Matt D'Agostini took a bad penalty, the Senators capitalized with a power-play goal. Max Lapierre lost the faceoff. A shot from the point went off Nick Foligno who was left all alone in front of Carey Price.
Minutes later Foligno had another chance. After a Patrice Brisebois giveaway from the Ottawa blueline, Brisebois tried to dive but couldn't catch Foligno who went in on a breakaway. Price made a great save to keep the game tied.
Ottawa got their first favourable call as Chris Neil and Mike Komiarek were battling towards the goal. After a shove, an off-balance Komisarek fell into the net and dislodged it. Komisarek received a delay of game penalty.
On the ensuing power-play, Mathieu Schneider was out of position allowing his man Jason Spezza to walk out from behind the goal-line untouched to score his first of the night.
Spezza scored again as he deflected a point shot past Price. Spezza's stick looked much too high from my vantage point but the play was reviewed and it was determined to be a goal.
Shots were relatively even in the period. Two very telling statistics: Senators out the Canadiens 17-7. Lapierre was 0-for-6 on faceoffs.
The Canadiens refused to quit scoring just 48 seconds into the second period. Higgins and Koivu did some great work behind the net to create a turnover. Koivu set up Tanguay for the goal.
Jarkko Ruutu gave the Sens another two goal lead. It was the first bad goal for Price in 5.5 games but Gainey made the correct move to bring in Jaroslav Halak. Ruutu never should have got into the Canadiens zone but he skated around a weak stick check by Brisebois.
The Lapierre line was involved in two more Canadiens' goals in the period, one by Latendresse and one late in the period by Kostopoulos. A real good sign with the Habs scoring in the first and last minute of the period.
Daniel Alfredsson scored for Ottawa as he tipped a shot from the point past Halak.
Halak, like Price, was also called on to make a save on a breakaway by Christoph Schubert. Halak also made a great pad save on Alfredsson who was all alone after Schneider failed to block a pass.
The Canadiens could not mount a sustained attack in the third period and were even outshot 10-7.
Again the final score was reflective of some very poor defensive play by the Canadiens. Special teams continue to be a problem. The power-play was 0 for 4. The penalty-killing unit was 0 for 2 as Ottawa connected on both of their opportunities.
The Canadiens lacked a strong physical game. They were outhit 31-16. The Habs seemed unwilling to dump the puck deep and mount an aggressive forecheck.
Goaltending will be discussed but was not an issue in this game. Price made some good saves and can only be faulted on one goal. Halak rebounded from a bad outing last time and looked solid when called upon.
It seems that my comments about Latendresse were once again proven correct. After looking lost in his first game back, he was the picture of confidence tonight when reunited with Lapierre and Kostopoulos. Latendresse led the team in shots with five and had two goals. Kostopoulos had a goal and two assists.
Lapierre got one assist but really struggled in faceoffs at a pathetic 14 percent. He must be much better than that if he can be counted on as a third line shutdown center.
Koivu, Tanguay and Higgins also looked happy to be back together. Higgins won battles for the puck all night. He also had three shots. Higgins does seem to be holding the puck for a fraction too long. He should make quicker decisions to pass or shoot.
Plekanec had four shots on goal and Andrei Kostistyn was a wrecking ball with five solid hits. Unfortunately their linemate Alex Kovalev was a no show in this game.
The fourth line was not a factor. Max Pacioretty had only five minutes of icetime.
We have talked about defense and special teams before. But it is crucial that the Canadiens show some improvement with only eleven games left. Only four points separate six teams that make up fourth through ninth place in the conference. The Habs have to take advantage of their next five homes games to improve their playoff chances.
A post game note to Mike Boone:
Your one-liner tonight was inflammatory and disgusting (you know which one I'm referring to). It doesn't even meet your website's own rules governing comments. A player's heart, desire, and loyalty have little to do with birthplace. You should not be attempting to incite and fuel what will be a bitter and divisive debate.
Do the honorable thing by deleting your comment and offer an apology to your readers.
Starting lineup: Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn, Kovalev, Schneider, Markov
Carey Price and Brian Elliot started in goal.
Stewart, O'Byrne and Dandenault were scratched from the line-up. Laraque, Bouillon, and Lang were out with injuries.
Rocket's three stars:
1. Jason Spezza
2. Guillaume Latendresse
3. Tom Kostopoulos
(photo credit: AP)
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