Less than 24 hours following an impressive outing against Columbus, the Canadiens traveled to Ottawa, looking to extend their road winning streak to seven games. As is customary in a back-to-back situation, the big question was whether the Habs would have the energy to put forth the same type of effort as they did the night before.
The lack of legs early on was evident, as Ottawa quickly took control of the game and began absolutely peppering Dustin Tokarski. An icing by the Habs would lead to a quick goal for Ottawa, as Mika Zibanejad would fire one past a screened Tokarski just over one minute into the game. By the five minute mark of the period, the shots were at 6-0 in favour of the Senators, and things were not looking great.
The Habs eventually woke up a little, and began getting some shots of their own. Alexei Emelin of all people nearly evened the scoring with around six minutes to play in the first, jumping into the rush but shooting directly at the chest of Craig Anderson. Shortly thereafter, Brendan Gallagher floated a bouncing puck into the Sens zone, and Max Pacioretty continued his hot streak, finding the puck and beating Anderson five-hole while his stick was being checked.
But still, the edge in play was with the Senators. A late period crazy scramble in front of Tokarski eventually allowed Jean Gabriel Pageau to find the puck and put it home, restoring the Senators one goal lead. Following the first period, the shot count was sitting at 20-6 in Ottawa's favour, and the Habs were rather lucky just to be still in the game.
Early in the second, Max Pacioretty was tripped by Jared Cowen going to the net, went into the net hard, and would head to the room. The puck crossed the line, but it was evident that this happened after the net was off. Not only was there no goal, there was also no tripping call on the play. As if some sort of cruel joke was being played, Ottawa would immediately take the puck up ice, and Erik Karlsson would finish the rush with a virtually unstoppable slap-shot.
Luckily, Max Pacioretty is the Wolverine, and he was back after a few short minutes in the room. Alex Galchenyuk had a second period scare of his own, as he was hit very hard (and clean) by Bobby Ryan, and appeared to be shaking his head a little on the bench. He also stayed in the game, and looked good after the hit, soit wouldn't seem there was anything to it.
Montreal would be awarded four powerplays in the second period, but it would appear that they prefer powerplays to be in the third period. One powerplay was cut short by Andrei Markov taking an acceptable breakaway-saving penalty, and while it was a penalty, David Legwand probably should have drawn himself an embellishment minor on the play as well. While the rest wasn't as terrible as it has ever been, it certainly wasn't the third period outburst of the previous night.
Ottawa managed a few chances of their own while shorthanded, and for any who thought the Columbus game might mark noticeable improvement, this surely was not what they were looking for. They did manage to chip away at the massive shot differential, but that and a now two goal deficit was all they had to show after a four-powerplay period.
And there were no man advantages through which victory could be snatched in the third on this night. It was essentially the exact opposite of the Columbus game. Rather than play extremely well at 5-on-5, they played rather poorly. Rather than cash in on a rush of powerplay chances, they didn't. Considering that even one goal on all those second period opportunities could easily have changed the outcome of the game, one has to think the powerplay will remain an area marked for lots of work in Montreal.
Of course, it would be easy to hide behind the excuse of the team being tired to explain the difference in performance. Very impressive one night, and very unimpressive the very next evening after travelling. Seems easy enough. While fatigue definitely played it's role in this game, particularly early on, I'm starting to wonder if the Therrien line blender isn't causing more problems than it is fixing.
By the end of the game, Alex Galchenyuk wasn't at centre anymore. It is understandable that he's trying to shake things up, but some of the decisions, that one in particular, are really hard to get behind. David Desharnais has been rather good as of late, but when Michel Therrien put him back in the middle?
Desharnais with a team-low 26% Corsi while being shifted back to center.— Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) January 16, 2015
They were probably tired, as they definitely came out flat and dug themselves a nice hole in the first. If there was a chance to get back in the game, it was the second period where the powerplay couldn't get it done. Therrien's line shuffling though, may actually have been what hurt their chances the most on this night.