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Canadiens vs Canucks recap: Can't win them all

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The streak is over, as the Montreal Canadiens finally lost their first game of the year, in Vancouver.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca

The Montreal Canadiens began their West Coast road trip in Vancouver on Tuesday night against the Canucks, in a game where Montreal was never able to establish a good pace.

They fell to the Canucks by a score of 5-1, and lost their first game of the season.

A sluggish start to the game led to the Canucks first goal, on a wild slap shot by former Hab Brandon Prust that handcuffed Carey Price.

Jared McCann was able to bang in the loose puck, and it could be considered an uncharacteristic weak goal against  Price.

The McCann goal woke the Habs up, as they came back immediately with the Plekanec line. They came close to tying the game, but Brendan Gallagher hit the post on a screaming slap shot, which set the tone for the team's fate on the night. Soon after, Vancouver added a second fluke goal, when a shot from the point deflected off of Nathan Beaulieu's stick and over Price's shoulder.

McCann would then add his second of the game for Vancouver, after winning a faceoff and heading straight to the slot. Prust got the puck and fired a perfect pass to his open centreman, who made no mistake beating Price to put the Canucks up 3-0.

Prust was playing his former team for the first time since he was traded to Vancouver for Zack Kassian. He has mostly been serving as an enforcer with his new team, but on this night he spoke with his playmaking skills rather than his fists. He was looking good with two assists, until a scary ankle injury took him out of the game in the second period. Thankfully, Prust did not break his ankle on the play, but will be out of action for a few days.

Montreal came close to getting on the scoreboard in the first, when Tomas Fleischmann out-skated and out-muscled Luca Sbisa, and fed a perfect cross-ice pass to David Desharnais. Unfortunately, Ryan Miller absolutely robbed him with arguably his best save of the game.

The second period was more balanced, with chances coming on both sides, but ultimately a dull uneventful period of hockey. The Habs started the third period with dominating momentum culminating in Torrey Mitchell tipping an Alexei Emelin point shot over Miller to break the shutout at 2:54 of the third period.

The momentum swing was in full effect early when the Canucks were penalized 5 minutes into the third, but the Montreal powerplay was unable to set up in the Vancouver zone. The opportunity came to an abrupt halt, when a sloppy line change caused a too-many-men penalty.

Shortly after the bench minor ended, Radim Vrbata picked a puck out of mid-air with great skill, beating Price. This re-established the three goal lead, deflating Montreal's chances at a heroic comeback. Even before Derek Dorsett got a lucky deflection off Alexander Semin to make it 5-1, the general consensus was that the Canucks had won, ending one heck of a winning streak by the Canadiens.

Thoughts:

  • How about Torrey Mitchell, and really, the entire fourth line? They controlled over 50% of even strength shot attempts while they were on the ice, and they did this while receiving zero offensive zone starts. Mitchell now has four goals on the year, and it appears that the Canadiens have found themselves a rather solid fourth trio.
  • Tough night for Price who lost only his second career game against Vancouver. The other game? The Habs were shelled for 7 goals against. It is hard to fault the netminder in this one, as most of the goals were the result of unlucky deflections.
  • If Semin gets any heat for deflecting in the fifth goal of the night, that would be ridiculous. If you watch the replay, he's covering for Alexei Emelin, who blew a tire near the red line and couldn't get back. Semin roared back to cover, and it was just another instance of bad luck for the Habs that the puck deflected off him and in.
  • Desharnais started taking faceoffs again for the first time since the game against the Penguins. The nature of the injury was never revealed.
  • The numbers indicate a closer game than the score alone would have you believe. Shot attempts were roughly even, and the Canadiens produced a fair amount of scoring chances. These types of games are going to happen.
The Montreal Canadiens will look to get back to their winning ways when they play the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, with a quick turnaround to face the Calgary Flames on Friday.