2-0 loss to Blackhawks puts Canadiens in playoff jeopardy
|Montreal Gazette 16 Mar 2019 at 19:00|
It was the Canadiens’ fifth loss in their last seven games and they lost ground to the teams they’re chasing for a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. Montreal is stuck on 81 points. Carolina, which holds the first wild-card spot spot, improved to 85 points with a win over Buffalo. The Hurricanes also hold a game in hand over Montreal. Columbus went to 84 points with an overtime loss to Boston.
Carey Price kept the score close for the first two periods, but Brendan Perlini’s goal at 4:49 of the third period gave Chicago a 2-0 lead and effectively ended any hope of a comeback by the offensively challenged Canadiens. Montreal has scored only 12 goals — including two empty-netters — in their seven-game slide.
The Canadiens outshot the Blackhawks 48-24, but they couldn’t beat Châteauguay native Corey Crawford. He improved his record against the Canadiens to 9-2-2 with a pair of shutouts.
The Blackhawks opened the scoring at 3:04 of the second period when defenceman Connor Murphy was allowed to waltz into the slot, where he took a pass from Dylan Strome and found the top corner on Price. The Canadiens had a good chance two minutes earlier when Paul Byron’s shot went off the crossbar.
There was another chance for the Canadiens at the 12-minute mark when Crawford left a rebound on a shot by Victor Mete. Artturi Lehkonen, who has been snake-bit most of the season, had a good chance off the rebound, but Crawford grabbed the puck out of the air.
Neither team scored in the first period and, while the Canadiens outshot the Blackhawks 13-11, it was Price who faced the more difficult shots.
There was some good news on the special teams front. Chicago had two power plays in the second period and they didn’t register a single shot on goal. But, while the Montreal penalty-killers were perfect, the power play was perfectly awful. The Canadiens have the worst power play in the league and there are few signs of improvement. Montreal did have nine shots on goal with the man advantage, but went 0-for-4 on the night. Over the past 17 games, the Canadiens have scored only two power-play goals on 40 opportunities. That’s a success rate of only five per cent.
Prior to the game, the Canadiens recognized Price for passing the late Jacques Plante for the most wins by a Canadiens goaltender. Price was joined on the ice by his wife, Angela, and their two daughters, as well as his parents and his sister. The Plante family was represented by his son, grand-daughter and great grand-daughter. Team president Geoff Molson presented Price with a silver stick, while captain Shea Weber gave him a No. 315 jersey signed by his teammates.
Two cast members from Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria performed the national anthems and there was a demonstration of Hula Hoop artistry during the first intermission.