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Canadiens vs Avalanche Game Recap: More drama as the Habs continue to unravel

A hot start goes to waste as the Avalanche come back to beat the Habs 3-2.

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What is there left to say about the Montreal Canadiens that hasn't already been said about the Titanic?

The Habs completed a short three-game road trip in Denver, losing to the Avalanche 3-2 after two previous disturbing losses against the Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes.

The first period was a very fast-paced affair with very few whistles, and Montreal actually ended up looking very good through the first 20 minutes of play. The first 10 minutes were capped off by Andrei Markov scoring his fourth goal of the season on a beautiful controlled zone entry, as the line of Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec, and Brendan Gallagher drove hard into the zone. Plekanec dropped a pass back to Markov, who whipped a wrister past Semyon Varlamov to give the Habs a rare 1-0 lead.

It was Ben Scrivens' turn to get the start, and the team needed a solid goaltending performance after giving up 12 goals in the previous two games. Watching him play his chaotic style was a throwback to the old days of 1980s netminding. He, like the masked men of yesteryear, made the saves, but sure spent an unnecessary amount of energy flailing around like a fish out of water.

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If Price's stoic calm demeanour helped give the players in front of him confidence, then I can only imagine the panic attacks that were occurring when players saw Scrivens behaving like a mime who was walking against the wind while trying to track the puck. He did, however manage to make 25 saves using that eccentric style.

With David Desharnais missing the game due to a foot injury, the power play had a desperately needed new look, with Lars Eller joining his new linemates Max Pacioretty and Sven Andrighetto on the second wave.

The new line looked good during their first man-advantage opportunity, but a second chance was a disaster. A broken play in the offensive zone led to a two-on-one break for Colorado who ended up scoring and tying the game 1-1. The Habs power play continues to limp along, going 0-for-3 for the game, and just 2-for-11 in the last five games.

That new line managed to redeem themselves only a few minutes later, when Lars Eller scored his 10th of the season thanks to strong forechecking by Andrighetto and Pacioretty, the latter finding Eller all by himself in front of the net, giving the Habs a 2-1 lead.

If Eller felt relief that this would aid in the coach's assessment of his performance as second-line centre, taking a penalty later in the second period likely put the pressure on once again. When Jarome Ignila tied the game 2-2 while he was in the box, the needle certainly swung back into the red.

As the third period progressed, you could see the game slipping from the Habs' grasp. The team appeared to have nothing left in the tank, looking exhausted at high altitude after getting bag-skated at practice the day before by Michel Therrien. The familiar pattern of repeated icings began to form, and sure enough all it took was a single mistake to record a third straight loss.

At the offensive blue line, P.K.Subban lost the puck to Mikhail Grigorenko, that allowed the Avalanche to sail into the Habs zone on an odd-man rush. Despite good initial coverage, everyone watched helplessly as Iginla buried his second goal of the game, giving the Avalanche the 3-2 win.

Subban ended up being benched after that error, not getting another shift for the final two minutes.

After the game Michel Therrien put the loss squarely on the shoulders of the Canadiens leading scorer.

Game Notes

  • Tom Gilbert played a season high 24:42. That was the second-most of any Habs player; behind Andrei Markov's 24:48, despite the coach's assertion that Markov's ice time is being managed.
  • Lucas Lessio made a return to the lineup after being injured in his first NHL game of the season. He showed some ridiculous speed, hustle, and hands. There is reason to believe that he will be in the running for a bottom-six role next season if he continues to perform.
  • Jacob de la Rose continued his audition, playing center for the first time this season. He finished the game with three shots and 15:53 time on the ice, which was more than centres Eller and Torrey Mitchell.
  • Devante Smith-Pelly took Tomas Fleischmann's spot in the lineup. Nobody noticed either way.
  • Colorado plays the Super Mario Bros. 'power up' sound when their team gets back to even strength, which was the best part of the game.

The Canadiens will next play the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night back in Montreal.