The Canadiens were in desperate need of a transfusion in Denver 48 hours after Monday night’s dreadful performance against the Bruins. They rebounded nicely but it wasn’t enough to survive the NHL’s highest scoring forward line.
Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Raantanen accounted for all of the scoring as the Avalanche edged the Canadiens 2-1. Rantanen and Landeskog scored the Avalanche goals with MacKinnon assisting on both. Brendan Gallagher scored for the Canadiens who outshot Colorado 36-26.
The difference in this game came down to one thing – offensive ability. The Canadiens dominated the Avalanche territorially. According to NaturalStatTrick.com Montreal had the puck for two thirds of the game in all situations (66.94%). But in high danger scoring chances, Colorado led 12-7. They scored on two of those chances.
ONE AND DONE POWER PLAY
The Canadiens power play drought ended at 25 advantages thanks to Gallagher who started the play in the slot and then was back there for the tip after Jeff Petry let the puck go from the blueline. Unfortunately that was it. The Canadiens got three more power play opportunities in the game and didn’t produce a shot on goal over the six total minutes which is reminiscent of what we have seen throughout most of December.
Carey Price will take a lot of flak for the first Avalanche goal. His backhand pass was right on MacKinnon‘s stick who then whipped it over to Raantanen. Price blundered, but he didn’t get much help. Neither Shea Weber nor Jordie Benn had put themselves in position to accept a pass from him. Inevitably, the anti-Price crowd will forget that the Canadiens could have been buried in the game’s first five minutes during which Price made excellent recovery saves on Matt Calvert and Matt Nieto as the Avalanche ran up a 6-1 shots advantage. This was another in the current string of strong performances from Price.
I don’t know if we’ll ever see much responsible defensive work from Jonathan Drouin. The winning goal was the result of much of what we’ve seen from him over the last two seasons. As MacKinnon went deep with the puck, Drouin’s job was to look after Gabriel Landeskog. First Drouin was too loose on his coverage which allowed the Avalanche captain to not only force Price to make a big save, but with Drouin now with his back to his check and interfering with Price, Landeskog was able to pop his rebound out of mid-air. It’s a shame because I thought Drouin had done some pretty good things on offence earlier in the game.
CONTROVERSY ON THE WINNER
Claude Julien thought there was interference on that goal before Drouin got in the way. According to Julien after the game “What we saw was the initial collision between Landeskog and our goaltender, which if there’s not that collision, he freezes the puck. They can look at the second one and say our guy pushed our goaltender even further, but that’s after the original collision.”
The officials didn’t see it that way. End of story.
For a reason only known to him, Claude Julien elected to sit Brett Kulak out of this game and re-unite Jordie Benn with Shea Weber. As a pair they were no better than they were the times they were together in the past.. Both Weber and Benn were on the ice for both Avalanche goals. Benn is simply not good enough to be logging top pairing minutes. Victor Mete had a pretty confident looking night after spending time in Laval. My guess he”ll get a chance with Weber against the Coyotes.
…..Gallagher‘s goal was his 15th in 35 games putting him on track for a 35 goal season. After what he said was his worst game ever against Boston, he came back and was by far the Canadiens best forward.
…..Tomas Tatar once again was doing a lot of skating and not accomplishing very much. He was the only member of the Canadiens, defencemen included, who failed to produce a shot on goal. He had four blocked.
….Mike Reilly led the Canadiens with five shots on goal.
….After winning five of seven faceoffs in the first period (71%) Phillip Danault won six of twenty the rest of the game, finishing at 41%. As a team the Canadiens were at 45%.
….At Denver Canadiens have lost six of their last seven games and thirteen of the last fifteen.
The Canadiens will play two sets of back to back games on this six game road trip. They complete the first of them in Arizona Thursday night against Alex Galchenyuk and the Coyotes. While Max Domi is on pace for a career season, Galchenyuk has three goals and eleven points in 23 games. After the game against the Coyotes the Canadiens move on to Las Vegas Saturday afternoon before coming home for the Christmas break.