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Canadiens vs Capitals recap: Play Whistled Dead

The unbeaten streak is over as the Canadiens fall to the Washington Capitals in a penalty-filled pre-season affair.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The first infraction was called 2:41 into the first period and the steady stream of players to the penalty box would continue the entire night.

With so many whistles and special teams play, the game never developed a rhythm and the result was an uninspired, sloppy game interspersed with some one-off offensive chances by both teams.  There was very little sustained pressure by either team all game.  The Washington Capitals managed to outshoot the Canadiens 31 to 18, scoring the lone goal on a harmless-looking play that saw the puck bounce off the side of the net and a few sticks before being corralled by Joel Ward at the side of the net and shot passed Carey Price, who was trying to follow the puck as it jumped across in front of him.

Brooks Laich added an empty-net goal to seal the 2-0 pre-season victory for the Capitals.

All told, 59 penalty minutes were doled out to the two teams.

A large portion of those penalty minutes (24) were given to Jarred Tinordi, whose difficult pre-season continued last night.  He was called for a tripping penalty early in the first period after Eric Fehr chipped the puck around him in the neutral zone and got tangled up by Tinordi's stick.  It appeared to be embellished by Fehr, who looked back toward the referee for a call while in the process of falling to the ice.  Later in the period Tinordi was correctly called for kneeing Steve Olesky after he stuck out his leg as the Capitals forward attempted to go around him in the offensive zone.

The majority of Tinordi's minutes were acquired at about the two-minute mark of the third period when he stepped up to hit a puck-watching Nate Schmidt at the blueline.  Tinordi's shoulder made contact with Schmidt's head, but the referee thought he led with his elbow and ruled it a five-minute infraction, adding a ten-minute misconduct on top.  Tinordi was then compelled to fight an instigating Chris Brown in the final action he would see during the game.

With all the penalties came lots of powerplays, with the teams getting six apiece.  The play on the ice wasn't markedly better when the teams had an extra skater at their disposal.  There were a few chances by each team, but ultimately the penalty killers' positioning proved to be too much for the teams, which both went zero-for-six on the man advantage.

All the whistles gave lots of opportunities for Montreal to showcase a new-found proficiency in the faceoff circle as they won 35 of 56 (62.5%) faceoffs in the game.  Manny Malhotra demonstrated his exceptional ability as a faceoff man in the NHL, winning six of his nine (67%) faceoffs.  Lars Eller bettered that mark winning seven of his ten draws.  A nice surprise in the faceoff circle was P.-A. Parenteau, who won five of the six (83%) draws he took in the offensive zone, helping to get the powerplay started, even if it did tend to stall shortly afterward.

The most pleasant surprise in the faceoff department may have been Alex Galchenyuk, who was able to earn his team control of the puck in seven of the ten faceoff battles he entered.  In this game, at least, he appeared to have that aspect of the centre position under control.

Galchenyuk was very impressive overall in his role as the top-line centre, creating lots of chances for himself and his linemates in the offensive zone and generating Subban-level buzz in the Bell Centre every time he rushed into the zone with the puck.  He and Pacioretty connected a few times for some nice scoring chances throughout the game, but could never capitalize.  There is an obvious unfamiliarity with each other's offensive tendencies, with neither player quite sure where the other will be to accept a pass, but the Galchenyuk-Pacioretty duo needs to be explored further after its performance tonight.

EOTP member henrique_rauen noted that Galchenyuk was less impressive while he didn't have the puck, and I agree with that assessment as he was most noticeable once he already had possession of the puck.  What I saw in those situations without possession was Galchenyuk erring on the side of defence, always making sure he was in proper defensive position, even in the offensive zone, being cognizant of a possible break toward his end; a few times I noticed him checking over his shoulder while in the offensive slot to see where his check was located.

It could be argued that it was Galchenyuk's defensive error that led to the Capitals being able to score the game-winning goal as the young centre was half a step too late getting to Ward's stick on that play.  I won't be that harsh and will instead chalk it up the the unfortunate result of being handily outshot in the game.

Carey Price handled the other 29 shots he faced in typical fashion, deserving the first star he was awarded in the game for stellar play throughout.  Most notable was a rebound save on Nicklas Backstrom halfway through the third period (at about 3:25 of the embedded game recap video).  He even had a nice breakout pass in the second period that set up an offensive rush for Malhotra and Dale Weise.  It looks like his knee is healed and he is ready for another remarkable season.  Hopefully this game wasn't the beginning of a trend for the performance he will see in front of him during the regular season.

The Canadiens will next face the Washington Capitals in the second game of the four-game road trip to begin the 2014-'15 season.

Next up in the pre-season, however, is the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.  Let's hope we get treated to a game more like the phenomenal Blackhawks-Habs game near the end of last season, rather than the mess that we got to witness last night.