If this Montreal Canadiens season were a boxing match, the Habs would be getting pummeled by a prime Mike Tyson at this point. The injuries continued to mount as the team rolled into St. Louis for a Saturday night clash with the Blues. Missing from the lineup still was Jeff Petry, but he was joined by Jake Evans who was day to day, and by Tyler Toffoli who was set to miss two months’ worth of action following hand surgery.
Returning to the lineup was Joel Armia, and the big Finn slid onto the second-line right-wing slot opposite Jonathan Drouin, while Ryan Poehling centred them. Dominique Ducharme mixed up the bottom six a bit with Laurent Dauphin centring Mathieu Perreault and Cole Caufield, while Jesse Ylönen was on the fourth line. Jake Allen got the start against his old club, and faced old Canadiens netminder Charlie Lindgren.
It took just over a minute for the Canadiens to find themselves down a goal thanks to a disastrous shift in the defensive zone. Jake Allen first misfired a pass behind his net, and then Armia turned the puck over as he fired a backhand pass back into traffic. Pavel Buchnevich fired a shot on Allen which was saved, but no one in front of the net was able to clear the rebound, which was slammed home to make it 1-0 Blues.
The main pushback from the Canadiens came from the third line as Caufield clanged a clean shot off the far post shortly after the Blues’ goal. Then, after a long period of the Blues owning the puck and Montreal being unable to clear their lines effectively, that line nearly struck again. Caufield flung a shot from the point that tipped off Laurent Dauphin, and Mathieu Perreault just missed the follow-up opportunity as St. Louis kept its lead intact.
Montreal had arguably the best chance of the entire period to cap things off as Ben Chiarot muscled Marco Scandella off the puck to begin a breakout rush. Drouin carried the puck in deep and put a perfect pass onto Armia’s stick, and Armia repaid him by completely flubbing the chance to allow St. Louis to escape the period with a one-goal lead.
The Canadiens started the second period with another high-pressure situation, this time killing a Caufield slashing penalty about two minutes in. While the Blues moved the puck extremely well, the Canadiens were able to get the kill and keep their deficit at just one goal.
That penalty kill didn’t translate into any kind of momentum, however, and the Blues took advantage of that to double their lead. A simple pass in the neutral zone turned into an odd-man rush where Dakota Joshua took a Logan Brown pass, skated around Jake Allen and neatly tucked it home for his first of the year.
Dakota Joshua gets his first goal of the season pic.twitter.com/OxIvM7l3K5— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) December 12, 2021
After Montreal had managed one shot on net in the latter half of the frame, they followed it up by taking a holding penalty and heading back to the penalty kill once more. It didn’t take long for the Blues to convert through Ivan Barbashev to make it a three-goal lead, a near impossible amount for the Canadiens to overcome.
Even a third goal against did little to inspire any kind of Habs pushback as they continued to be hemmed into their own zone and the offence wasn’t able to trouble Charlie Lindgren as the team had managed a meagre six shots when the horn ended the period.
The final period brought some good news for the Habs as they were the beneficiary of a bad turnover in the defensive zone. Poehling tried to swat home a Laurent Dauphin rebound, but his shot popped out to Alexander Romanov in the slot. Romanov loaded up and snapped a shot off the corner and in to finally get Montreal on the board.
After allowing a breakaway to Vladimir Tarasenko almost immediately after getting thieir goal, the Canadiens found themselves under siege until a dubious call put them on their first power play of the game. It looked like the Habs had a sure goal as Mike Hoffman put a pass right into Drouin’s wheelhouse, but the winger booted the chance, and that ended up stinging the Habs shortly afterward.
Hoffman was called for a hook, and the Habs once again had to kill a penalty. While the penalty kill handled most of the two minutes, the final bit they didn’t allowed Torey Krug to walk in and rip another power-play goal past Allen to restore the three-goal advantage.
As has been the case all season, there was no real fight left in Montreal as the Blues continued to dominate control of the puck and smothered any attempt at a Habs counter-attack. Montreal wasn’t even able to get Allen out of his net to attempt an empty-net comeback. When the final horn sounded, the Habs had dropped their sixth straight game, this one by a 4-1 score, having netted eight total goals in that span.
The road ahead doesn’t get much easier for Montreal as they’ll head to Pennsylvania to play the Penguins on Tuesday night.