The Canadiens tied the game on 3 separate occasions, but trailed 4 separate times en route to a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavillion. The loss opens up a 4 game swing through 80% of the Pacific Division, excluding Dallas.
"Jumbo" Joe Thornton proved once more that he is a premier complete player in the league, using his size and skill to lead the Sharks to the victory. Joe wound up with 2 goals and 2 assists in the outing, and Jonathan Cheechoo figured in as well with a highlight-reel goal while adding two helpers as well.
Brian Campbell capped the evening off in style, as he tallied a powerplay goal late in the third period - his first as a Shark and 6th on the season - by coming in one-on-one with Mike Komisarek and executing a perfect spin-o-rama to get by the husky Habs defender, eventually releasing an ice-level backhander that fooled Price through his legs...another highlight-reel tally for SJ.
The Canadiens would tie the game at 1, 2 and 3, but the Sharks would finally pull away on a very weak goal from Jody Shelley, as he tallied his 1st of the season on a weak slapshot from the blueline as his linemates were changing. The dump-in wound up catching a favorable bounce off the ice and bounced up to beat Price under the arm. Price failed to properly position himself against his post, taking the shot for granted.
Cheechoo would then add insurance as he came in 1-on-2 vs. Boullion and Gorges. Cheechoo executed a toe drag to perfection around Gorges, and rather than help out, Boullion looked on, likely awaiting Price to make an aggressive pokecheck. Instead, both were caught watching, and Cheechoo finished the play off in style, going top corner past Price for the 5-3 lead and eventual game-winner.
Carey Price allowed a season-high 6 goals on 39 shots, while counterpart Evgeni Nabokov struggled as well, allowing 4 on 31, yet coming up with the all important "W".
The Canadiens top ranked powerplay went bone dry, failing to capitalize on 7 attempts. The Sharks cashed in twice on 5 opportunites.
Tomas Plekanec led the way for Montreal, tallying two goals, his 25th and 26th on the season. Maxim Lapierre and Ryan O'Byrne (1st NHL goal) also scored for Montreal.
Despite the loss, which snapped a three-game winning streak, the Canadiens were able to maintain top spot in the Northeast Division, as the Ottawa Senators dropped a 3-1 decision in Anaheim. However, they no longer lay claim to 1st in the East, as they are now surpassed by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Apart from two or three pretty goals from the Sharks, the game will likely most be remembered by the poor officiating put on display by referees Tim Peel and Chris Rooney. The duo seemed to miss call after call after call, with a larger load of missed calls going against the Habs (although San Jose endured their fair share of missed calls as well). They seemingly tried to make up for missed calls by calling some phantom penalties shortly after. It was very noticeable and an absolute terror to watch, but both teams tried their best to play through it.
The most noteable of all missed calls came on Joe Thornton's 2nd goal of the game. While on the powerplay, Patrick Marleau was creating havoc for Carey Price in the crease, and would eventually steamroll the Habs netminder after Price had made a save on a Thornton point-shot which involved the puck being cleared off the goal line by Habs defenseman Roman Hamrilik. Price would recover, pick up his stick which he had dropped in the missed goaltender-interference call, and get to his skates JUST in time to face another shot from Joe Thornton from the exact same spot. Price wouldn't have enough time to properly execute his save, and the puck would beat him through his legs for a 3-2 San Jose lead.
To put everything into basic perspective:
- The Habs D was weak;
- The goaltening was weaker; and,
- The special teams were altogether invisible.
The Sharks didn't play particularly strong and stingy defensive hockey as they are accusotmed, but they didn't have to either on this night.
Oh, and Criag Rivet won his personal battle with Josh Gorges in a "my new team will beat your old team" contest.
The Habs next visit Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night at 9 p.m.