Even as the Canadiens were taking their 2-0 lead early in the second period there was a kind of inevitability about this game.  Somehow they were going to find a way to lose on home ice once again.

It’s not that they were playing badly. They weren’t.  But they weren’t that great either despite a decided shots on goal advantage.  Steady offensive pressure wasn’t there and Edmonton has a weel established killer attack when they put their collective mind to it.  In the third period the Oilers did just that. Three unanswered goals and the Canadiens went down for the eighth consecutive time; their second eight-game losing streak in two months.

The Canadiens remain in 25th place in the league but are rapidly closing ground on the bottom feeders and the Alexei Lafreniere draft lottery sweepstakes.

Dare we say the ‘tank’ has been officially launched.

THE WATERSHED

Forgive me for repeating myself but the two month collapse of the Canadiens needs documenting.

On November 15th the Canadiens shocked the Capitals by beating them 5-2 right in Washington. Their record was 11-5-4 which put them second to Boston in the Atlantic Division, fourth in the Eastern Conference and sixth overall in the league. The Canadiens came home from that win to lose a 4-3 overtime game to New Jersey. It started their first eight game losing streak. They bounced back slightly in December before starting this one which has plummeted them from 8th in the league overall to 25th.

What is incomprehensible: starting with that November 16th New Jersey game, the Canadiens have won only two of fourteen home games (2-8-4). Things would be much different if the Canadiens had won even half of those games.

NO HOME COOKING

Jonathan Drouin suffered that wrist injury in the November 15th win at Washington. Since then the Canadiens have won seven of twenty-six games. What is incomprehensible and startling is, starting with that November 16th New Jersey game, the Canadiens have won only two of fourteen home games (2-8-4). The Canadiens have a lot of mid-level talent but no true game-breakers. Of the twelve home losses, eight were by a single goal, 3 others were one-goal games until an empty-net goal was added. The only lopsided loss was the 8-1 Boston fiasco. How much difference would Drouin have made? We’ll never know of course, but my guess, based on the way he was playing, it would have been considerable.

DOING HIS JOB

Danault scored his eleventh goal of the season with a quick shot off his own rebound. That was only part of what was a good night for he and his linemates that included successfully putting the checking arm on Connor McDavid who was coming off a four point game. Everything was working out fine until Danault was called for hooking early in the third period. Without the Canadiens best penalty killing centre, McDavid set up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the power play to tie the game and start what became a game-winning three goal third period.

THE SPARKPLUG

Brendan Gallagher returned to the lineup, tinted visor and all. Back with Danault and Tatar, he was the Canadiens best forward. If anything he looked fresher than he was before he suffered the concussion. Four of his seven shot attempts were on target. Two of them were listed as ‘high danger’ chances.

FOURTH LINE

Gallagher beat three Oilers defenders before sending Nate Thompson in on what might have been the Canadiens best scoring chance of the game. Thompson made all the right moves, beat the goaltender and then hit the post with his backhand.   Had he scored it would have given the Canadiens a 3-1.

It moved me to pose a press box question. When is the last time a member of the fourth line produced a goal while actually playing on the fourth line? Jordan Weal has one goal his last 25 games and that was scored while participating in a power play at Tampa in late December. Ryan Poehling is still waiting to post his first point of the season. Hudon, Weise, Vejdemo, Riley Barber, Peca – nothing. The answer to the question is Thompson sixteen games ago. It was hoped with Thompson’s re-signing that the fourth line would give Claude Julien some periodic offense. After some October success it has disappeared almost entirely.

 

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

….The last time the Canadiens suffered two eight-game losing streaks in the same season was the 1939-1940 season.

….In their first eight game losing streak the Canadiens were able to pick up three ‘loser’s points (0-5-3). In the current one they were involved only one overtime loss (0-7-1).

….Three times during the current streak the Canadiens blew 2-0 leads.

….Usually holding a lead going to the third period is a statistical pathway to victory. Seventeen times the Canadiens have gone to the third period with a lead. They’ve lost seven of those games (10-4-3). Only New Jersey is worse in that department.

….The Canadiens had seven ‘high danger’ scoring chances in the game. Five of them came from linemates Danault (3) and Gallagher (2).

….With his assist on the Kotkaniemi goal, Artturi Lehkonen has four goals and nine points his last eleven games.

….Ilya Kovalchuk played in his 900th career game. Playing in his third game in four nights after an idle two months, he wasn’t as sharp as we’d seen but he did play a solid defensive game.

MOVING ON

The 25th placed Canadiens will play the 29th Senators Saturday night in Ottawa. Should the Senators hand the Canadiens their ninth consecutive loss in regulation they would trail the Canadiens by four points with two games in hand. (30th ranked New Jersey is also six points behind the Canadiens with two games in hand).

The Canadiens return home to face Calgary Monday night and Chicago Wednesday. Thursday they’re in Philadelphia followed by Vegas at the Bell Centre on Saturday. Four games in six nights leading up the All-Star break.