KANATA – The red light above the opposing net hasn’t been lighting up as frequently as the Canadiens would like.
Despite getting on the board first in Ottawa, the Habs weren’t able to snap their current losing skid in the nation’s capital. With just four goals in the past four games, it isn’t hard to pinpoint the problem when it comes to racking up wins.
“We got some great scoring chances but we didn’t capitalize on them. That was the difference – we couldn’t finish tonight,” admitted head coach Michel Therrien, whose team fired 34 shots on Robin Lehner but only managed to muster one power play marker. “I thought we deserved a better fate tonight. I thought we were the team that dictated the game and usually when you do that, you come away with a win.”
The Habs may have only been able to beat Lehner once, but it wasn’t for lack of chances. Entering Thursday’s game boasting the NHL’s fifth-ranked power play, the Canadiens had five opportunities with the man advantage. They also had one goal disallowed when Brendan Gallagher was called for goaltender interference in the second period.
“We have to do a better job of finishing and getting guys there and sustaining pressure,” explained Brian Gionta, whose ice time included four minutes and 32 seconds on the power play. “I thought we did a better job tonight. We had some quality opportunities; we just didn’t convert. It’s tough when you’ve lost three in a row and you come in and have a solid game and a ton of opportunities.
“If we had capitalized on those, it probably would have been a different outcome,” he added. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about wins and we have to find a way to get some.”
While some back in Montreal might be clamouring for the panic button after seeing the team go 1-3-1 in the past five games, cooler heads are prevailing inside the Canadiens’ dressing room. With nearly 80% of the season still to be played, the Habs aren’t deviating from the game plan 17 games into the campaign.
“It’s disappointing, obviously, but at the same time we feel like we’re playing pretty good hockey,” shared Carey Price, who stopped 20 of the 23 shots he faced. “We controlled a lot of that game tonight. I think going forward we can build on the way we’re playing. We lost two tough games recently and I believe we deserve better. This league is built really tight now and it boils down to one or two bounces a game.”
After seeing his team block another 22 shots on Thursday night to bring their total to a league-leading 195, Therrien is satisfied with the commitment he’s getting from his troops on a nightly basis. He’d just like to see a few more pucks making their way past opposing netminders.
“It’s normal that we’re disappointed; we all want to win, especially a game like that,” he confirmed. “It’s frustrating to lose after playing a good game on the road, but we can’t hang our heads. There are some positives we need to take from this game. It was a good team effort.”
The Habs will get their chance to snap their skid and start a more positive streak when the Islanders come to town on Sunday night. Puck drop is slated for 6:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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