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In the Habs Room: We got totally outclassed in the first, Julien says

In the Habs  Room:  We got totally outclassed in the first,  Julien says
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The Canadiens need all the points they can get, but they let at least one slip away when a miscue in the final three minutes allowed the Islanders to snap a 1-1 tie.

With goaltender Carey Price playing at the top of his game, Montreal appeared poised to take its chances in overtime. But missed communication between defenceman Brett Kulak and Max Domi in the Islanders’ zone led to a turnover and a 2-on-1 break that ended with Anders Lee’s 25th goal of the season at 17:03.

“It was a miscue down the wall,” Kulak said. “I was going to pinch down and I didn’t communicate that I wanted (the puck) fully. There were a couple of guys from the Islanders. It was kind of jammed up and the puck came loose and they scored on an odd-man rush.”

Domi was unable to handle the puck when it came out to him and Mathew Barzal was off to the races.

Price was the only Montreal player who seemed ready to start the game, and he made 15 saves in the first period to keep the score at 0-0.

“We got totally outclassed in the first period, outmuscled, outraced, you name it,” said an unhappy coach Claude Julien. “They were all over us in the first. If you’re a team trying to make the playoffs, you should really be disappointed with that and maybe even frustrated. We had a bad first period and we ended up the way we started with a real bad decision with about three minutes left and it cost us a point, maybe even two.”

The failure to win or at least take the game to overtime left the Canadiens tied in points with Columbus in the battle for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. But the Blue Jackets have two advantages. They currently hold the wild-card spot because they have played one fewer game.

The Canadiens are in a situation where they must finish with more points than the Blue Jackets if they hope to make the playoffs. If they are tied in points, the first tiebreaker is regulation and overtime wins, and Columbus holds a 39-37 edge over Montreal.

Kulak said he wasn’t surprised that the Islanders came out strong.

“It’s not like they have a playoff spot totally locked up,” Kulak said. “They’re playing for their spot and we’re playing for ours. We had a very slow first period and then we picked it up as we went on. But at this time of year, you have to play a full 60.

“We addressed it at the first intermission and realized we had to move on from there,” added Kulak. “There wasn’t too much damage done and Pricey bailed us out in the first period.”

The win was a big one for the Islanders, who delighted a near-capacity crowd of 13,274 at their original home. They have 89 points to hold in to second place in the Metropolitan Division. They are two points behind Washington, with a game in hand.

Price, who made 36 saves, said the game had a playoff vibe.

“I thought that crowd was amazing, the building was rocking and it was fun to play in,” Price said. “We played a team that looked like it was ready for the playoffs. We would have liked to have a better start, but at the end of the day, we had opportunities in those last two periods. It was disappointing.”

Late breakdown proves costly for Canadiens in loss vs. Islanders
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