Though they have been deserving of better results of late, the Canadiens entered Thursday night's tilt with the Detroit Red Wings losers of their last three games straight. Just to make the task of ending that streak a little bit tougher, Dustin Tokarski would be making his first NHL start of this year, making it tough to gauge exactly what to expect from him going in.
Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca
In the first period, Tokarski came up big. The Red Wings held the advantage in play during the frame, firing nine shots to Montreal's six, but Tokarski made several good saves to keep things scoreless. Not to be outdone, Petr Mrazek made some saves of his own, and got some help from the post when Andrei Markov got a partial breakaway.
Just over midway through the second, Detroit would finally break through. Darren Helm snatched a puck out of mid-air on a break, walked in alone on Tokarski, and ripped a shot to give the Wings the lead. There was some chatter about the play possibly being offside, but the replay debunked that theory in short order.
Not long after that, the Habs would get right back in it. Charles Hudon, playing in his first NHL game, fired a hard shot on net that Mrazek couldn't handle. The rebound trickled behind him, and Sven Andrighetto finished it off, giving Hudon his first career NHL point in his first game.
The third period started out with some good back-and-forth, but it was Montreal who would eventually take the lead. Tomas Fleischmann continued to prove that he's more than worth his 750K salary, by taking a David Desharnais pass, and firing an absolute laser to beat Mrazek.
Dustin Tokarski then had to come up big again for the Canadiens, throwing his body across the crease to make a ridiculous save, preserving the lead.
As the story has gone for the Canadiens lately, their efforts simply wouldn't be enough. First, Justin Abdelkader would score on what looked like a kicking motion, but would ultimately be allowed. Then it was Darren Helm burning the Habs for the second time on the night, regaining the lead for his team, and putting the Habs right back on their heels.
And that would be enough. P.K. Subban would be penalized for putting the puck over the glass within the final two minutes, severely hampering the Canadiens ability to grab a last minute goal. And so, the Canadiens would fall for the fourth time in as many games, and the losing streak continues.
- First and foremost, Dustin Tokarski deserves some serious credit for the effort he put forth on the night. Regardless of the result; he's had his struggles this year, but he showed up, and gave the team a chance to win. It would be pretty tough to fault him on any of the three goals he allowed.
- Again, despite the loss, Charles Hudon's debut was a rousing success. He had one occasion where he fired a scoring chance well over the net, but other than that, he looked very NHL-ready. Not only did he manage an assist, he was one of only five Habs skaters to have 50% or higher in Corsi for on the night. Great debut for the youngster.
- Daniel Carr also seems rather show-ready. In just over 11 minutes of ice time, he managed 57.89% Corsi for, and managed an assist to boot.If there is a silver lining to the losing streak, it's that rookies like he, Sven Andrighetto, and Charles Hudon are looking very good, albeit in a small sample.
- What more can needs to be said about Tomas Fleischmann? He did take a couple of penalties in the game, but this is a man doing what multi-million dollar per year players do for a fraction of the cost. He is an absolute steal for the Canadiens, and I almost feel like starting a kickstarter campaign to give him some extra money for his efforts.
- There is basically no way that I'll ever be convinced that the Abdelkader goal should count. His skate moves towards the net and redirects the puck with the toe of his skate to put it in. If that isn't a kicking motion, then I have no idea what is. A moot point it may be at this time, but I firmly believe that should not be a good goal.
- Regardless of whether that goal should or should not have counted, the Habs didn't deserve this game. In total, they were out-attempted 57 to 41, and out-chanced 26 to 19. If not for Tokarski, it could have been ugly. Maybe they were tired, maybe it was the blending of the lines, but it's a fourth straight loss no matter how you slice it.