If the Montreal Canadiens were still not in the tight race for the last three or four playoffs spots, in the NHL's Eastern Conference, then Carey Price probably gets some rest Wednesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
But, such was not the case and Jacques Martin was forced to throw his number one goalie right back out in back-to-back nights.
The Hurricanes, still on the outside of the playoff picture and clearly the hungry team on the ice, took advantage of two Canadiens turnovers, in the first period, that led to a pair of goals by rookie Jeff Skinner.
The Hurricanes Calder Trophy candidate was on the ice for five of the home team's goals, in a 6-2 win over the Canadiens.
Montreal had 40 shots on Cam Ward who, aside from the first period, saw the majority of the shots from the perimiter. Sounding familiar,....again?!
The Canadiens also had 23 shots blocked on the night, which again attests to Carolina's ability to keep their opponents to the outside, and make Ward's evening an easier one.
If the visitors accomplished or improved anything on the night, it was on the power play .
After a few games of asking and wondering by the fans, Martin finally adjusted his power play, in the second period, by teaming up James Wisniewski and P.K. Subban.
The experiment, which had seen success in Minnesota then disappeared, paid off with a Mike Cammalleri goal at 5:23. Now don't get me wrong here, I'm pretty sure that Martin doesn't rely on the voice of the fans, or the media for that matter, in his coaching decisions. It just appears that way.
Forty-seven seconds later however, Jamie McBain restored the Hurricanes two-goal lead. Joni Pitkanen added a fourth goal at 9:03.
Playing the road as of late has not been good for Price. CTV's Arpon Basu complied some numbers on the Habs netminder on Twitter. "Price in last three home starts: 176 MP, 1.36 GAA, .952 save percentage. Last three road starts: 102 MP (so far), 8.24 GAA, .803 SP." It should also be pointed out that two of those perfomance came off back-to-back nights.
Tonight's outing, save Skinner's first goal where Price left the five hole open, can't be pinned on the Canadiens No. 31. Martin felt the same way and pulled Price, in favour of Alex Auld, start the third period.
"I can't blame the goalie," Jacques Martin said afterwards. "I think it was more tonight where our defense, we made some mistakes that cost us."
Mistakes by his players usually means a shortened bench. Lars Ellerlearned that after coughing up the puck on th e Hurricanes' second goal. Eller played a total of 4:01.
The final 20 minutes had a bit of delay, when Tuomo Ruutu planted Hal Gill up against the glass. The end result is seen below.
The Canadiens power play struck again, with Wisniewki and Tomas Plekanecsetting up a Subban marker with the man advantage.
The Hurricanes, who have struggled in back-to back games, weren't about to sit back and hold a lead. McBain replied yet again at 15:24, and that pretty much put it out of reach, on a night where the Canadiens just were not working.
Cory Stillman close out the scoring with a power play goal, at 17:47.
Maybe Martin's hardline practice session on Sunday just left an impression that lasts for one game.
The injury bug still comes into question. There has been suspiscion that Cammalleri has not colpletely recovered from his seperated shoulder. Post game, the Habs' winger noted that Tuesday's game against the Atlanta Thrashers was one of his better ones, and that he felt better (health-wise) as Wednesday's game progressed.
The same may be asked of Plekanec, who is still likely feeling the effects of a groin injury. If these two are no 100% after April 9th....
Frustrations eventually caught up to the Canadiens as Subban and Benoit Pouliot were both dished out 10-minute misconducts .
The loss, coupled with a Buffalo Sabres win over the New York Rangers, finds the Canadiens still in sixth place, holding a two-point lead over both clubs. The Sabres and Rangers both hold a game in hand.
Carolina also remains in the hunt, now three points back in ninth.
So for time being, the Canadiens nail-biting fans will have to endure a few more nights. We just know that Martin Brodeur, Jacques LeMaire and the New Jersey Devilswould love to throw a monkey wrench in the Habs plans on Saturday.
More on the game, from the winning side, at Canes Country
Three Stars: 1. Jeff Skinner 2. Jamie McBain 3. Cam Ward
|11:01 CAR||Jeff Skinner, 28 (MTL: 55 22 11 21 52 31 CAR: 5 15 36 30 33 53)|
|15:06 CAR||Jeff Skinner, 29 (Tuomo Ruutu, 34) (MTL: 44 32 20 46 31 81 CAR: 5 15 6 36 30 53)|
|06:10 CAR||Jamie Mcbain, 6 (Erik Cole, 26 Cory Stillman, 25) (MTL: 75 55 57 31 58 53 CAR: 36 25 30 12 4 53)|
|05:23 MTL||Michael Cammalleri, 17 (PP) (James Wisniewski, 38 Tomas Plekanec, 33) (MTL: 13 14 20 46 31 76 CAR: 77 59 39 30 33)|
|09:03 CAR||Joni Pitkanen, 4 (Tuomo Ruutu, 35 Jeff Skinner, 29) (MTL: 75 21 13 14 31 76 CAR: 15 36 25 30 4 53)|
|09:01 MTL||P.k. Subban, 12 (PP) (James Wisniewski, 39 Tomas Plekanec, 34) (MTL: 35 13 14 20 46 76 CAR: 5 6 39 30 16)|
|15:24 CAR||Jamie Mcbain, 7 (Drayson Bowman, 1) (MTL: 44 35 14 20 46 57 CAR: 59 25 30 4 16 21)|
|17:47 CAR||Cory Stillman, 11 (PP) (Joe Corvo, 27 Eric Staal, 38) (MTL: 44 15 35 13 20 CAR: 61 77 26 12 4 53)|