Riding a four game winning streak, the Canadiens had an excellent chance to make a last ditch effort for a playoff spot. The schedule through the remainder of February is in their favour, and starting off with the lowly Hurricanes should have been a good start.
A weak start, mixed in with some bad judgement, bad luck, and questionable officiating all resulted in a loss where two points will be sorrily missed.
Canadiens center Lars Eller summed it up post game. "We should have had this one. We needed to win this one. We could have been 5 points out of a playoff spot right now," he said. The Danish forward is not counting the team's hopes out just yet, but knows it will be a monumental task adding,"I won't say we're out of it because technically we can still make it but we're making it hard on ourselves."
Cam Ward and Carey Price each made 30 saves on the night, with the former picking up the win on the evening.
The Hurricanes dominated the first period, out-shooting the Canadiens 16-6. They managed to find the back of the net just once, at 3:09, when Jiri Tlusty tipped a Bryan Allen point shot past a screened Price.
Carolina continued to be the dominant team as the second period began, and took a two goal lead, while on the power play at 9:41. Of all players, former Habs rearguard Jaroslav Spacek slipped in off the blue line for his second goal of the season.
From then on the Canadiens took over, netting three goals in a six minute span. Tomas Plekanec got the ball rolling, opting to shoot on a two-on-one, beating Ward at 11:53.
Next up was the Habs power play, which scored not once but twice in the period. Erik Cole did an Alex Kovalev impression around the right faceoff circle before powering in a snap shot at 15:57. Cole's "Two and a Half Men" linemate David Desharnais scored his 11th goal of the season, grabbing a wide point shot off the boards and squeezing it between a sprawling Ward and the goal post at 17:53.
Three times a charm on with the man advantage would prove not to be in the third period, when Eric Staal powered down the right side, exposing Tomas Kaberle's defensive liabilities, to tie the game at 3:15.
The Hurricanes power play converted for it's second time on the night, taking advantage of Canadiens defencemen Josh Gorges playing without his stick. With Staal missing one chance off the post, Jamie McBain made sure his slap shot found the back of the net at 8:50.
An opportune time was blown by the Canadiens, on a late power play, when Desharnais elected to pass the puck on a pair of chances whereas shooting at a practically empty net was the best option.
Staal added an empty net goal to put the game out of reach.
The Canadiens next face the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. Following tonight's game, the Canadiens returned Ian Schultz to the Hamilton Bulldogs. Shultz had just been called up Sunday afternoon.
Of note: Hurricanes captain Eric Staal was assessed a two-minute penalty for an illegal check to the head on Tomas Plekanec. It will most certainly be reviewed by NHL VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan.
Three Stars: 1. Eric Staal 2. Erik Cole 3. David Desharnais
Winning reaction from SBN partner Canes Country