OTTAWA – In a game that saw the Habs and Sens combine for 24 penalty minutes before the first TV timeout, it was no surprise special teams ended up being the biggest difference.
Just over five minutes after the opening puck drop, Andrei Markov had already managed to extend his power play point streak to five games after setting up Tomas Plekanec for his fourth goal of the season. That was the last time the Habs were able to use special teams to their advantage on Wednesday night.
“That’s kind of been the story this year: if our power play is going and our PK is going, we win hockey games,” explained Brandon Prust, who accounted for 17 of the Canadiens’ 36 penalty minutes against the Senators – 12 of which came after the final buzzer. “Tonight we needed a couple of kills and we didn’t get them. That was the difference.”
With 28 penalty minutes of their own in the outing, the Senators also spent their share of the game in the box. But when Ryan White was sent off for four minutes on a double minor for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct, the Sens made sure to make the most of their opportunity.
“We took some penalties in the second that we shouldn’t have and it cost us. We laid off the pedal for about five or 10 minutes and they scored a couple quick goals,” explained Brian Gionta of the three goals Ottawa scored in a three-and-a-half minute span to make it 4-1 midway through the second period.
“Any time you take penalties, it hurts you,” continued the Habs captain. “They scored two on that four minute one, but that’s something we’ll learn from. [Ryan] is a guy who works extremely hard for us and he plays with passion and he maybe let it get to him a little bit tonight.”
Accountability has been a mantra of the Canadiens since Day 1 of training camp and while every other player in the room was talking about the team’s role in the loss, White stepped up to shoulder his share of the responsibility.
“I put the team in a bad situation and they capitalized on it and that was all she wrote,” shared White. “I’m fired up during the game and I was battling hard and I felt I was getting my stick held against the wall, but regardless I have to do a better job of walking that line and not putting my team in a bad spot.”
Currently leading the league with 42 penalty minutes in six games so far, White knows there might be a conversation with his head coach in store for the bus ride back to Montreal.
“It’s punishment enough that we lost and I had to sit there and watch it. That’s a terrible feeling,” he admitted. “It’s a tough situation to be in and you never want to put your team in that situation but that’s the way it went and I have to learn from it and be better.”
After losing just his second game since returning behind the Habs bench this season, Michel Therrien won’t have any trouble using Wednesday’s performance as a teachable moment.
“We got off to a good start. We were intense in the first period and we were pressuring them. We started off the second the same way,” mentioned the Canadiens coach. “[Colby] Armstrong got called for a penalty that, even after watching it five times since, I still don’t understand. That took the wind out our sails a little bit. But the four minute one White got with the unsportsmanlike penalty is unacceptable.
“We lost too many battles in front of our net and we lost the special teams game,” he concluded. “We definitely didn’t make it easy for Peter [Budaj] in his first game. When we win, we talk about how we won as a team. When we lose, we don’t point fingers; we lose as a team, too.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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