Saku Koivu's ceremony was on point. It was incredibly emotional, and as per usual with anything associated with Saku, it was inspirational. In recent weeks, the Canadiens have had a pretty good crash course in what being a good captain is all about, which should come in handy down the road when it comes time to give someone the "C'.
Unfortunately for the Canadiens, it was Anaheim who got off to a quick start. The Ducks managed to hem the Canadiens in their offensive zone for the majority of the opening ten minutes, including a three minute disaster of a shift for Manny Malhotra's line. The pressure eventually paid off, as a Hampus Lindholm's point shot found its way past a screened Carey Price.
The rest of the period was...bad.
To their credit, the Canadiens came out swinging in the second period, however Frederik Andersen would have none of it. Andersen was actually allowing a fair amount of rebounds, but the Ducks defenders did a good job keeping the Canadiens out of reach.
The night took an ugly turn early in the third, when Clayton Stoner blatantly boarded Max Pacioretty, who left the game and did not return. As is tradition in the NHL, every single official missed the obvious penalty. That's not where their incompetence ended.
As is tradition, the referees compounded their errors by giving the Habs the usual makeup call. They quickly capitalized on the powerplay, thanks to a David Desharnais one timer off a nice cross-ice pass by Andrei Markov. Desharnais is gaining confidence in his shot since he's been separated from Pacioretty, which is good news for Habs fans.
Anyone who's watched a fair amount of NHL action knew what was coming next; the makeup call to make up for the makeup call on the original blown call. Classic. The Ducks scored what ended up being the game-winning goal shortly after the powerplay expired.
It was a disappointing result, even more so due to Max Pacioretty's injury, which could definitely send Montreal's already anemic offense into a tailspin if it ends up being serious. The re-introduction of Lars Eller into the lineup will help, and Sven Andrighetto's probable call-up will add much needed creativity, but there's no way you can replace a goal scorer like Pacioretty.
There are two things that really irked me throughout this game. I don't want to dwell on how atrocious the referees were last night, because there's no point in crying over spilled milk. Let's just say they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked, and move on.
The more important point, is one that Michel Therrien can fix: Stop relying on Manny Malhotra so much. His amazing faceoff win percentage is masking the fact that he's a huge liability on the ice. You really can't justify his automatic presence in the lineup with faceoffs alone, especially since it's obvious that in his case a win doesn't usually translate to puck possession. Sending him out in the final minutes to win the draw might seem like a sound move, but a 4-6% faceoff advantage isn't worth wasting a spot on the ice when you're trying to tie the game.
The Canadiens are back in action on Saturday, they'll be facing a familiar foe in the Ottawa Senators.