In the Habs Room: Montreal s playoff hopes hanging by a thread after loss
|Montreal Gazette 05 Apr 2019 at 04:36|
That was coach Claude Julien’s assessment of the Canadiens playoff situation, but his team certainly has one foot in the grave after dropping a 2-1 decision to the Washington Capitals Thursday night at Capital One Arena.
“Both teams had the same number of chances tonight and they scored one goal more than we did,” Julien said after what was a must-win game for the Canadiens.
Going into the game, the Canadiens had a chance to overtake the Carolina Hurricanes or the Columbus Blue Jackets for one of the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference. But the Hurricanes were 3-1 winners over New Jersey at home and that ensured them of a playoff spot, because they moved three points ahead of Montreal.
The Blue Jackets are still within reach, but barely.
“We’ve got a few days here to look at what’s going to happen and, hopefully, we’re still alive tomorrow night and give ourselves a chance to stay in the race,” Julien said. “The guys gave an effort and played well as of late and it was one shot, one goal, that made the difference tonight.”
Will Julien be hanging on the result of Friday’s game?
“I don’t sweat too much over things I can’t control,” he said.
The Canadiens had kept their hopes alive with gutsy wins over Winnipeg and Tampa Bay, but the they came up short in their third consecutive game against a division leader.
The Canadiens did a good job of limiting chances for Washington’s elite players — Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom — but third-line centre Lars Eller and fourth-liner Nic Dowd scored the goals that made the difference in this game. There was a common thread to the goals, both of them came after the Canadiens failed to clear the puck out of their zone.
Eller scored after Christian Folin’s attempt to rim the puck never got past the side boards. Dowd”s game-winner came after Paul Byron was unable to control a pass that was behind him.
“Against a team like this, with the offensive talent they have, they seem to make teams pay and we can’t afford to do that,” said captain Shea Weber, who scored the lone Montreal goal on a power play.
“They have a lot of poise,” said Carey Price, who made 29 saves. “I thought we did a good job of limiting Ovie’s chances. He had a breakaway in the second and he had one good look in the third, but otherwise we didn’t give them much.”
“It wasn’t the best of all the games we’ve played lately,” Weber said. “There was a good stretch in the second period when we were playing our game and we were all over them. But we still had a lot of chances. It was tough one. I don’t think anyone didn’t want to win and didn’t give everything they had.”
Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the win, which ensured that the Capitals will finish first in the Metropolitan Division for a fourth consecutive season.
“We’re trying to reset tomorrow for our cause,” Weber added. “We can’t control what happens (in the Blue Jackets-Rangers game) but we can try to get two points Saturday in case we need that.”