ST. LOUIS – A few trends continued for the Canadiens against the Blues.
Coming into Thursday’s tilt against St. Louis, the Habs had scored a first period goal just once in nine games in the month of December. Looking to snap that streak in St. Louis, the Canadiens spent Thursday morning talking about getting a better start right from the opening puck drop, but ended up heading into the first intermission nursing a three-goal deficit.
“We talked about how we wanted to be ready and put pressure on them and play the way we can and obviously we didn’t,” admitted Tomas Plekanec, whose team has now allowed nine first period goals against in that same 10-game span. “They scored the first goal and those are mistakes that shouldn’t happen. It was a 3-0 game after the first period and it’s hard to [come back] from that.”
Despite enjoying a pair of power plays in the opening minutes of the game, the Habs weren’t able to solve Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak on either opportunity and actually ended up conceding a shorthanded marker on their first power play of the night.
“It was a period we weren’t ready for and we made mistakes we shouldn’t be making. It’s no secret what was said in here,” described Habs captain Brian Gionta, who played 3:28 with the man advantage against St. Louis. “We’ve had slow starts. I don’t know if it’s preparation for the start of it or getting that desperation up right away. Once we’re in a hole we seem to make a push, but by the way we’ve played the last five or six games, we need to be desperate right off the bat.”
The one positive the team can take from the game was the consistently-stingy performance of the NHL’s top-ranked road penalty kill unit. While they may have seen more action than head coach Michel Therrien would have liked, the Habs PKers snuffed out all seven Blues opportunities with the man advantage, having now killed off 22-consecutive power plays on road ice to bring their road PK percentage to a stellar 94.1%.
“The only time we worked the way we needed to was on the penalty kill. The rest of the game, we weren’t working,” underlined Therrien. “It was a disappointing performance. What concerns me was there weren’t a whole lot of players who came ready to play tonight. We weren’t ready to pay the price to have success and the results reflected that. It’s hard to explain it. We talk and we talk and we talk; every player is responsible for preparing himself to play and coming ready to come out with a lot more determination.”
Leading all Habs forwards in shorthanded minutes with 97:16 this season, Plekanec has been a major factor in the team’s penalty killing prowess in 2013-14. Despite the increased workload he’s gotten as a result of the Canadiens’ average 11.5 penalty minutes per game, Plekanec would like to see a little less action in 4-on-5 situations going forward.
“We’re not helping ourselves, for sure. I don’t know how many penalties we took or how many were in the offensive zone, but we can’t dig ourselves out of those holes if we keep doing that,” he stressed. “We killed them, but it’s not enough. You’re not going to win games just killing off penalties. We need to be much better overall. It’s just not enough right now.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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