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The Canadiens’ lack of discipline cost them a winnable game in Vancouver

There were a few bad calls, but ultimately the Habs have only themselves to blame for so many penalties.

NHL: JAN 20 Canadiens at Canucks Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nothing can undo a solid team effort on any given night quite like taking a mountain of penalties that interrupt any sort of offensive push. Against the Edmonton Oilers, the Montreal Canadiens were flawless on the penalty kill, including seven kills during Monday’s game alone. On Wednesday night against the Vancouver Canucks, that lack of discipline, aided by a few questionable calls along the way, ended up being their undoing.

There were seven total penalties called in the game, six on Montreal, and the Canucks scored on three of them. The man advantage is where the Canucks got their work done all night, and Montreal’s lack of discipline played right into that. At even strength the Habs were able to wear down Vancouver, and chip away at their various leads all night, while also converting their lone power-play chance.

Perhaps most frustrating about the Canadiens’ penalty issue is that several of them were mental mistakes, things that are directly on the players’ shoulders in-game. Josh Anderson didn’t have to launch Quinn Hughes into the net after the whistle, or fling the puck out of play while not under pressure. Even Jesperi Kotkaniemi, justified as he may have been, did not have to call out an official to earn an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. These are things that are between the ears. Much like Brendan Gallagher with his dangerous hit against Darnell Nurse on Monday, they have to know and be better out on the ice.

Going seven-for-seven on the penalty kill against the Oilers was a massive stroke of luck for Montreal; you can’t often hand a star-studded team that many chances and not have it come back to bite you. Wednesday night in Vancouver, it took a sizable chunk on several occasions, and it prevented Montreal from taking sole possession of first place in the North Division.

As it stands, Montreal’s even strength play is pretty well unmatched so far this year. To continue taking penalties and preventing their four-line depth from shining is shooting themselves in the foot. Whether the officials are looking at them more closely due to some words out of Toronto, or maybe something else, Montreal needs to clean up their game in a big way. The North Division is going to be a hotly contested battle for playoff spots, and the last thing the Habs want is their own discipline issues giving away points to undeserving teams going forward.