Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, and in the American capital on Wednesday there was plenty to be thankful for after the Montreal Canadiens lost their game to the Washington Capitals 6-3 at Capital One Arena.
The Capitals were thankful for the Canadiens’ play in the defensive zone, for instance. Cole Caufield was thankful his goalless drought is over. Canadiens fans were thankful the game ended.
It was a remarkable turnaround from one of the best moments from the team’s season so far, a 6-3 win over the Nashville Predators.
“They were the better team, and we got the result we deserved,” said Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher.
Gallagher was asked if there’s a pattern to the team’s poor performances, especially following wins, as they have yet to win two games in a row this season.
“Other than the fact we’re getting outplayed, no,” he said.
Montreal actually started off the game with a power play just 1:18 into the game when Dmitry Orlov went off for delay of game. Shortly after the power play expired, Nic Dowd took the puck end to end, around the net and beat Jake Allen to give the Capitals an early 1-0 lead.
The game snowballed from there, as is often the case with the Canadiens this season. After a Jeff Petry penalty, John Carlson’s shot deflected off of Cédric Paquette and in the net past Allen.
Washington made it 3-0 on a bizarre bouncing puck goal that was credited to Michael Sgarbossa. It was the type of goal that just shows how badly things are going for the Canadiens.
The lone bright spot in the period where they were outshot 16-5 was Jake Evans’ goal with 1:14 remaining. The line of Evans, Artturi Lehkonen, and Brendan Gallagher was very good throughout the game, unfortunately not many of their teammates joined them.
After the game, Evans said that he couldn’t be satisfied with his game.
“I always want to contribute offensively, but when I’m on the ice for three goals [against], I’m not happy about my game,” Evans said after the game. “That’s where I’m going to do well in this league is focusing on that first and I didn’t do a good enough job.”
The second period was better from a flow of play standpoint, but Washington still scored the first goal of the frame to reclaim their three-goal lead. Carlson made a perfect slap pass to Evgeni Kuznetsov, who fired his shot into a wide open net as Carlson had everyone, including Allen fooled.
Again, with just over a minute left in the period, the Canadiens scored again. This time, it was Cole Caufield scoring his first goal of the season. After a two-on-one chance, Caufield’s shot went up off the glass and bounced back in front where he scored.
The goal wasn’t originally ruled to cross the line, but Caufield signalled that he thought it went in right away, and a review eventually confirmed the puck had crossed the line.
Tom Wilson and Orlov scored early in the third period to make it a 6-2 game before Lehkonen scored his second goal of the season on a partial breakaway after a great pass by Gallagher.
The loss moved the Canadiens to 5-14-2 through 21 games. Their .285 points percentage is third-worst in the NHL and they are closer to the two teams behind them — the Ottawa Senators and Arizona Coyotes — than they are to the team right ahead of them, the New York Islanders.
“I think we’re working hard but sometimes we lose coverage, we lose a quick battle and it bites us in the butt,” Evans said. “It’s time to snap out of it. I’ve been saying this for a while. We’re all feeling pretty bad about our games and we’re all feeling very frustrated about how this season started off for us. It’s time to turn the corner.”
The Canadiens road trip continues Friday and Saturday with back-to-back games in Buffalo and Pittsburgh before they return home for a date with the equally tailspinning Vancouver Canucks on November 29.