Poor Performance, Controversy Mars Habs Loss To Penguins
We should probably preface all of this by declaring that, outside of Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens probably didn't deserve to win tonight (Jeez, haven't heard THAT before, eh?).
The Habs played a sloppy and inconsistent game against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre tonight, and the end result was a 4-3 overtime loss against what was obviously a better team.
That's what should have been the game story following tonight's game. Instead, we're left to sift through the wreckage of the hockey equivalent of a nuclear missile. No, the story of tonight's game wasn't Carey Price's amazing play or the disappearance of the rest of the team, or Sidney Crosby and the Pens lighting it up offensively. The story of tonight's game was much more sinister.
It included a deadly hit to the head, a controversial game-winning overtime goal, and oh, so many instances of goaltender interference.
We'd normally start with the most controversial play of the night (in this case, the overtime goal), but tonight, there was a play late in the game that more or less served up a dish of scathing hot karma for the Canadiens in the overtime frame.
That's right, a headshot. But in a sudden twist of irony, it was actually a Montreal Canadien delivering the questionable hit, and not just any Hab, but one that was on the receiving end up a vicious hit late last season. Naturally, the circumstances and hit themselves are completely different, but since the two will inevitably going to be grouped together, we figured we'd get a head start on the competition.
Late in the third period, Pens defenseman Kris Letang came streaking down the ice and into the Canadiens' zone, only to be met with a facefull of Max Pacioretty's shoulder. The hit would send Letang down to the ice, bloodied and with a broken nose. But a pin and a "cuncussion test" later, Letang would return in OT to score the winning goal.
Here's the hit:
Now, discussing the specifics of hits is usually a effort in futility, so we'll save you the excruciating details and allow you to form your own opinions in the comments below. The only things we can say for certain, is that there was definite contact with the head, and there's little to no chance that Letang saw Pacioretty coming. In other words, this was the exact type of hit that the NHL is trying to get out of the game, and that means Pacioretty will likely be getting a call from the Shanhammer before the Habs' next game, and, if I had to predict, a suspension of one to three games.
Now, the fun part. Firstly, there was absolutely no penalty on the play, despite the pool of blood left on the ice by Letang. The referees seemingly didn't see anything, but that's a discussion for another time.
The REALLY interesting part is that Letang was back on the ice, broken nose and all, no more than 10 minutes later in overtime. With a bloody shirt that we're pretty sure is against the rules, Letang went ahead and scored this goal:
So, let's recap. After leaving the ice bloodied and dazed from a hit to the head, Letang would go to the locker room, get a pin put in his nose, be administered one of the fastests "concussion tests" in the history of medicine, return with an illegal bloody jersey, and score a goal when the play should have been whistled dead thanks to a frozen puck.
Seriously, the Pens must have gotten about a dozen or so pokes at the puck under Price's glove before they pried it loose and it got to Letang for the goal. Either that was the worst officiating of the season from the referees, or one Hell of a make-up call.
We'll say it again, the Canadiens probably didn't deserve to win this game, outside of a stellar performance from Carey Price, making 38 saves. The Pens kept up the offensive pressure on the Canadiens for the better part of 65 minutes, and while the Habs definitely had a few great chances (and managed to score three goals themselves and hold the lead for most of the game), the level of effort was nowhere near reciprocated.
A typical Habs game, if you will, although the Pens forced them to open their game up a little more than usual. The Pens especially took advantage of a few players who have been the key to the Canadiens' inconsistencies over the course of the season.
Hal Gill, God love him, is doing everything he can but if there's a team in the league that knows how to take advantage of his lack of speed, it's the Pens, and the end result was a -3 on the night. The same can be said of Yannick Weber, who also put up a -3 and proved once again that he has no business on the Canadiens' blueline.
Up front, Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri, and captain Brian Gionta had horrible nights for their team. Cammy is more than likely playing injured (more on that another day), Plekanec is more than likely just exhausted from being overused again, but Gionta was a whopping and inexplicable -4 on the night. As for the positive, Travis Moen would score his 8th, Max Pacioretty his 10th, and Erik Cole his 7th.
But regardless of how many players we can blame for tonight's loss, the end result truly comes down to a blown play that led to that game-winning-goal. Again, nevermind the fact that the puck was clearly frozen, Letang shouldn't have even been on the ice, and you'd think that the team that just went through ten months without the best player in the league would be a little more careful in these situations (how's that for a comparison?).
It's enfuriating. The Canadiens may didn't deserve two points, but who are the referees to decide that? At the very least, they deserved unbiased officiating, and they didn't get that. Not only on the GWG, or Pacioretty's hit, but all throughout the night. It was open season on Carey Price from the Pens, who consistently ran him on many of their offensive attempts, and would reciprocate with an extra amount of hypocrisy any time a red sweater would even come near Marc-Andre Fleury's blue paint.
Thankfully, in most of those cases, the referees actually did something about the Pens' offenses, even waiving off a couple of goals as a result, but there was a clear lack of respect coming from the Pens side of the ice towards the Habs, in their own building. And what's even worse is that the Canadiens seemed unwilling to do anything about it most of the night.
I'm not sure what I really want to be angry about; the poor officiating, or the fact that this team clearly can't spark a fire under their own asses. There was plenty in tonight's game to motivate them and get an effort out of them, and while we saw glimpses of what this team might be capable of, in the end, they fell flat, controversial calls or not.
And that's really the story of the season so far for the Canadiens. Finding excuses for poor outings and inconsistent play. Tonight, they have a good one, but it shouldn't hide the fact that they didn't play very well for most of the game.
The Canadiens have the next three days off, before heading to SoCal for games against the Ducks, Sharks and Kings on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.