The Canadiens have hit the skids at the worst possible time.

Their 6-3 loss at Sunrise Florida Sunday night was their 4th in a row and third straight in regulation time during a road trip that saw them outscored 12-4. Only a week ago the Canadiens were in third place in the Atlantic Division and there was discussion of a first round playoff meeting between the Canadiens and Toronto. Since then the Canadiens have fallen to the second wild card berth (eighth in the Eastern Conference) and are now only one point away from being pushed right out of the playoff picture by the Carolina Hurricanes who have won three in a row and eight of their last ten games.

THE BACKUP

To avoid forcing Carey Price to play in his third game in four nights, Claude Julien opted for Antti Niemi who had already beaten Florida twice this season. It didn’t turn out well. Niemi gave up three goals on nine shots before Price was ordered to replace him. Florida’s second goal, a 55 foot wrist shot that Niemi simply muffed was the indication that he wasn’t ready to play. When he left the Panthers led 3-1. The Canadiens came back to tie the game but never had a lead in the game. Unfortunately Price had to take the loss.

NO ESCAPE

With home ice Florida coach Bob Boughner had the last change. His decision was to play the Huberdeau/Barkov/Vatrano line against Danault/Drouin/Gallagher plus Weber and Mete. They ate the Canadiens up. The Huberdeau line was on the ice for four of the six Florida goals. Although the Danault unit was in trouble most of the night, it was also a particularly bad night for Shea Weber and Victor Mete. Weber looked slow while Mete was physically overmatched. Mete was minus-3 in the game; Weber minus-2.

BREAKING OUT

While the Danault line had an awful night, the Domi line was again the Canadiens best. It didn’t start that way. Domi was sitting in the penalty box when Aleksander Barkov scored the first of his three goals in the game’s fourth minute. Domi made up for that by scoring on his first shot on goal in three games and then added a second goal to tie the game at 3-3 in the second period. It was his 19th goal of the season, a career high.

ANOTHER NO-SHOW

It’s beginning to sound like we’re piling-on but it’s hard to ignore how bad Jonathan Drouin was during the three game road trip. In this game what stood out was his failure to finish a check in offensive zone early in the first period, a giveaway to Huberdeau that lead to a partial breakaway in the second period and a selfish retaliatory offensive zone slashing penalty also in the second period. He finished the night at minus-3 and was minus-6 in the Canadiens three game road trip. Drouin is going to be 24 next month. It’s becoming clear that what we’ve been seeing is what we’re going to get from now on and that’s not good.

NO ADVANTAGE

The Canadiens 5:34 of power play time produced only two shots and one scoring chance. That included twenty-six seconds of 5-on-3. Basically it looked the same as we’ve been seeing for most of the season.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

….For the third straight game the Canadiens suffered a third period collapse, managing only three shots on goal. In Tampa they had only 4 third period shots and in Nashville they were outshot 11-6 in the third period. They Canadiens were outscored 6-1 in the third period in the three games.

….Tomas Tatar‘s aggressive checking created turnovers that led to both of Domi’s goals. Along with two assists he had three takeaways.

….Charles Hudon replaced Nicolas Deslauriers on the fourth line with newcomers Nate Thompson and Dale Weise. Hudon managed two shots on goal and had one scoring chance but overall the unit was ineffective.

….Thompson may be having problems finding chemistry on the fourth line but Julien isn’t hesitant to use him on the penalty kill where he logged 2:02 of the Panthers 4:04 PP time.

….The Canadiens longest losing streak of the season was five games – 0-3-2 between Nov. 19th and 27th.

….Domi and Brendan Gallagher led the Canadiens with four shots on goal.

MOVING ON

The Canadiens will try to end their four game losing streak Tuesday at the Bell Centre followed by a home game against Philadelphia. The Flyers are 8-1-1 over their last ten games. Starting next Saturday in Toronto the Canadiens will play seven of their next eight games on the road, including a three game California trip. Two thirds of the Canadiens final twenty-one games will be on the road.