Their work ethic gets them a lead but their offense can’t get them the needed extra one that will get them over the hump. As a result the sit back, protecting the one-goal advantagel and the opposition comes back on them.
That was the scenario in Game Five of the Ranger series Thursday night. On the same manpower advantage the Canadiens answered a shorthanded goal with a power play goal of their own and took a 2-1 lead with just under four minutes left in the first period. From that point – nothing. With Gallagher’s power play goa the Canadiens had piled up 14 shots on Henrik Lundqvist. The rest of the game, outside of the third period Max Pacioretty breakaway, they had barely a sniff. And now they face elimination in New York on Saturday night.
THE BREAKDOWN –
Halfway through regulation time the Canadiens were in control. They had a 22-10 shots on goal advantage but the Rangers had just been given a lift by killing off back-to-back penalties to Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello. From that point they were on their heels as the Rangers took over the game outshooting Montreal 26-12, including a totally lopsided 10-3 in the overtime. The only signs of life from the Habs was a shorthanded cross-bar by Phillip Danault and the Pacioretty breakaway.
It’s not over yet, but the headline for this series could be “Pacioretty Flames Out.” It’s a little unfair because there are a few others who have contributed little in the first five games of the series but Pacioretty is the Canadiens 35 goal scorer and on the offensive side of the puck, he is dying out there.
The Captain leads the playoffs with 24 shots on goal over five games and has only one assist to show. Andrei Markov sent him away on a breakaway with seven minutes left and Henrik Lundqvist stoned him. That was the ‘game-over’ moment. We’ve seen Pacioretty in these slumps before. He had a horrible one through the first two months of the season. Unfortunately he’s now running out of race track in his attempt to get back on track..
Alexander Radulov carried the Canadiens through most of the first four games. He was busy but, for one reason or the other, not very effective in Game Five. I think part of that might fall on the people with whom he was on the ice. The problem continues to be there were few who were playing well enough offensively to pick him up.
….What to do with Alex Galchenyuk? That will be a discussion through the summer in the Canadiens front offices. He picked up the second assist on the opening goal of the game, but really had little to do with it beyond being on the ice at the time. On the night he had one shot on goal, didn’t hit anybody and won only 2 of six faceoff attempts.
….Once again Julien juggled his first and third lines and left the Plekanec line intact. And for good reason. Everything about that line has been good throughout the series. Plekanec continues to win 62 percent of faceoffs. Gallagher was the game’s second star and Paul Byron logged six hits. As a matter of fact the undersized line put up 11 hits and eight shots on goal.
….It’s not for lack of trying. Pacioretty attempted 13 shots; five on goal and six of them were blocked.
….Lost in all of this was Artturi Lehkonen who had a goal and assist and was probably on the short list in game-star selection. Lehkonen also had five shots on goal.
….Alexei Emelin was unlucky on the winning goal. The puck ticked off his stick right to Zibanejad. In his first game back after missing six with that injury, he led the Canadiens with seven hits.
Is it all over?
Maybe. But remember, the Rangers had the worst home-ice record heading into the playoffs and the Canadiens won Game Three at Madison Square Garden. Still, eighty-percent of teams that lose Game Five in a 2-2 series historically have gone on to lose the series. The optimists in the crowd might point to 2010 when they came back to win series against Boston and Pittsburgh to reach the Conference final. There’s always a chance, slim as it might be.