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Canadiens vs Oilers recap: A humbling loss

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Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes, well, he eats you

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

There's certain expectations when you face a team like Edmonton.

Most teams enjoy a dominant possession game, and an easy 60 minutes that culminate with two points in the standings. The Montreal Canadiens are not most teams. They've made a habit this season of beating some fairly impressive clubs on some nights, only to succumb to lottery-bound franchises during their next outing.

Things started well for the Habs. Christian Thomas opened the scoring late in the first period, thanks to a fantastic shot that left Viktor Fasth no chance. It was Thomas' first goal in the NHL, and even though it took him 15 games to get there, he's shown clear signs of NHL-calibre talent since his call up. He's a shooting machine, which leads to a plethora of scoring chances when he's on the ice. If he continues this trend his point production should quickly improve.

Birthday boy Alex Galchenyuk doubled his team's lead early in the second period, capitalizing on a ridiculous pass from P.K. Subban. Galchenyuk, who turned 21 Thursday, made no mistake, one-timing the puck past an out-stretched Fasth.

That's when the fun ended for the Canadiens. A Jeff Petry shot was deflected by Matt Hendricks, cutting the lead to one. Later in the period Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took advantage of confused Dustin Tokarski to tie the game. Tokarski was scrambling during the play, which seems to be a major weakness of his. Most goalies have a hard time when there's a goalmouth scramble, but Tokarski definitely struggles at times to keep his eye on the puck. During this particular play, it looked as if Tokarski was looking for his contact lens on the ice instead of tracking the puck. He never found it.

Edmonton continued their solid play in the third period, essentially controlling the flow of the game and creating a glut of chances. Tokarski played well to keep the Habs in the game, and for a brief moment it appeared as if that would be enough to steal the game.

habs shots

As per usual, Max Pacioretty was the man who gave the Canadiens the lead. He corralled a Subban clearance and used his awe-inspiring release to beat Fasth. It's uncanny how quickly Pacioretty gets the puck off his stick. It goes 0 to 'way too fast for most NHL goalies' in no time.

The celebration would be short-lived and heartbreaking. Shortly after Tomas Plekanec failed to score on an empty net, Nugent-Hopkins took advantage of a complete defensive breakdown by the Canadiens, to tie the game with 25 seconds left on the clock. As hard to swallow as it was, no one could say that the Oilers didn't deserve it. They were clearly the better team on this night.

With a some help from Tom Gilbert, Anton Lander was gifted a wide-open net in overtime, one that he took full advantage of, earning Edmonton their 16th win of the season.

Truthfully, the Habs were lucky to leave the game with a point in the bank. They were outplayed by one of the worst teams in the league, and the coach had no illusions as to what went down.

Bad game indeed, especially the stretch when they voluntarily played with only four skaters on the ice.

As it stands the Canadiens are first in the Eastern Conference, which means they can probably afford to drop a few points here and there as the season goes on. What's interesting, is that Montreal's last four losses have come by the hands of some of the worst teams in the NHL; Ottawa, Arizona, Buffalo, and now Edmonton. During that stretch they've beaten some heavy hitters, although to be fair the common theme during those wins is top notch goaltending.

If the Canadiens hope to establish themselves as legitimate contenders, there's no doubt they'll have to do a better job putting away the NHL's bottom dwellers. The good news is that these teams won't be an issue come playoff time. The bad news is that the teams the Habs will face in the playoffs will be considerably better than the teams they've lost to recently.

Fortunately, the Habs will have a chance at redemption versus a terrible hockey club during their next outing, as they're set to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

(Scoring chances and shot chart sourced from War on Ice )