Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca
After two consecutive solid outings, Dustin Tokarski was awarded with yet another start, as he continues to try and prove he belongs in the NHL.
Prior to the game, the Canadiens honoured Carey Price for winning the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete of the year. A well-deserved addition to his impressive list of accolades .
The usually stoic Price took the opportunity to pump up the crowd a little bit.
The Habs came out a little flat, but eventually took control, and began peppering Martin Jones with shots, as well as getting quality scoring chances. Jones, for his part, made a number of solid saves to keep Montreal off the board. San jose would inexplicably manage to strike first, as a two-on-one left Tokarski with no chance, and Patrick Marleau was able to slide one past him to take the lead.
Despite the game being all Montreal, the Sharks would grab the second goal of the game as well. Joe Pavelski redirected a point shot, and it fooled everyone on the ice, including Tokarski, putting the Sharks up 2-0.The Canadiens may have had a significant edge in the first, but the ice was quickly beginning to tilt the other way.
Making matters worse, a total defensive breakdown by the Canadiens midway through the third opened up the gap even further. Dainus Zubrus wound up all alone in front of the net with the puck, deked out Tokarski, and fired one in on the backhand. By this point, the control the Canadiens once had over the game was seemingly gone for good, and so was Tokarski, as he was replaced by Mike Condon.
The Canadiens really needed to get a goal before the end of the second, and luckily Dale Weise was willing to oblige. He walked in, and banked the puck off Marc-Edouard Vlasic, which allowed for him to beat Martin Jones. The Habs were on the board, but needed much more to get back in it.
Some decent chances came for montreal in the third, including an early powerplay. It didn't help that when they were able to get a good scoring chance, Martin Jones was there to stop it. Jones had quite the solid night between the pipes for his team.
For most of the third though, it was a listless effort from the Habs, as they could scarcely figure out how to gain the offensive zone, let alone score. They would pull Mike Condon for the extra attacker, but much like the rest of the third, it was nothing doing, and the Habs fell for the fifth time in six games.
- Michel Therrien had the line blender out again in this game, and while it may have done more bad than good, it did give us a look at what P.K. Subban and Nathan Beaulieu can do as a pairing. They looked fantastic once they were put together, and it was a glimpse of a potentially very effective future first pairing. We'll have to wait and see if that sticks.
- Torrey Mitchell had a triumphant return to action for the Canadiens. He was the Habs best forward statistically, as the team controlled nearly 90% (!!) of even-strength shot attempts when he was on the ice. It is a major benefit for the Habs to have him back from injury.
- In all, it would be hard to call this a dominant performance for the Sharks. Montreal out-attempted them by a total of 68-38, and if not for Martin Jones, the game could have been a lot closer. Obviously some of the edge in stats is due to score effects, but it would be hard to list that as the sole factor.
- That said, defensive lapses were what sunk the Canadiens on this night. Some will be quick to point the finger at Dustin Tokarski, and he wasn't great, but if the Canadiens were more responsible in their own end, they give themselves a much better chance to win.
- Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban in particular looked very out of sync on the night. It would be fair to fault them on two of the goals, and to expect better of them. In fairness, they've been lights out for nearly every contest this year, so some leeway is in order when discussing their performance.
- Defensive lapses and bad luck aside, there is still a lack of scoring. I'm not sure that changing the lines and pairings several times per game is the way to achieve that, but Michel Therrien needs to do something to light a fire offensively. Thankfully Brendan Gallagher is back on skates, and hopefully he is nearing a return to action. The Habs sure could use him right now.