A lack of attention to the details. Claude Julien has been complaining about it for months.

He’s right of course. When the Canadiens have their bad nights it has usually been caused by poor puck management and tactical breakdown. How else can you explain the failure to close out periods, the ceding of quick goals and the blown leads?

It was a perfect storm of all three in Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers.

As has happened so many times this season, the Canadiens gave up late goal in the second period, allowing the Rangers to narrow the score to 2-1. In the third period the Rangers scored two goals in seventy-five seconds to take the lead and added the clinching goal three minutes later.

But, complain as he might and as much as he hates to admit it, Julien also has to resign himself to the fact that the team he’s been given to coach isn’t very good.

RECIPE FOR LOSING

You can’t ignore the numbers and those numbers tell an inconvenient truth.

This was the fifth time in the last nine games the Canadiens held a 2-0 lead and went on to lose the game. It’s the fourth time in a row they’ve done it in front of their own fans.

The Canadiens are in the bottom third of the league in almost every meaningful statistic. They are 23rd in the overall standings, 16th in goalscoring and 23rd in goals against. Their power play ranks 21st, the penalty killing 20th.

In other words, the Canadiens don’t do anything very well.

MEDIOCRITY REIGNS

Every time I hear a coach say “We’ll have to do our scoring by committee” alarm bells go off. What it he’s saying is he has no reliable offense to speak of and is forced to rely on grinders to win his game for him.

With his goal and assist against the Rangers Tomas Tatar equaled the career high 58 points he established last season. Fifty-eight points puts him 30th among NHL scorers. Max Domi, who is trying to finish off a horrible season with a strong finish, now ranks second on the team 14 points behind Tatar. He’s 82nd in the league. It’s been thirty-three years since a member of the Canadiens finished the season in the top ten in scoring (Mats Naslund-1986). The way things are going, it may be years before we see another high echelon points producer in Montreal.

DON’T BLAME PRICE

Claude Julien got angry during the post game news conference when a reporter asked him if he thought Carey Price, who was making his league-leading 55th start, might be getting tired. Before he basically stormed off the podium Julien rightfully pointed out that Price had been very good through the first two periods of this game.

Price was particularly good in the first period when he stopped Filip Chytil and then got across to take care of Chris Kreider on the rebound. Early in the third period, with the Canadiens still in a 2-1 lead, he made another outstanding save on Mika Zibanejad. From that point on, whatever game structure the Canadiens had in the game broke down. Price faced fifteen third period shots and gave up three goals.

THINKING NEGATIVELY

It’s impossible not to think of the draft lottery at this point. The Canadiens are still ranked ninth but everyone beneath them in the standings holds a raft of games-in-hand. Buffalo is one point back with three in hand. Chicago, currently 7th in the lottery, is three back with two in hand. New Jersey seven points behind with four in hand. Anaheim, currently fifth in the lottery is nine points behind the Canadiens with three in hand.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

….The Canadiens have lost seven of their last nine games (2-5-2) and have dropped 22 of their 35 home games (13-16-6).

….The Rangers gave the Canadiens three power play opportunities in the game. Over the six minutes with the man advantage they could muster only three shots on Alexandar Georgiev.

….On the other side, a clearly frustrated Brendan Gallagher took two offensive zone penalties in the third period. The Rangers insurance 4th goal was scored while he was sitting in the box.

….Through the first two periods the Canadiens controlled 62% of the game’s offense and held a 10-3 advantage in high danger scoring chances but were unable to build on their 2-0 advantage. The Rangers had three high danger scoring chances in the third period and scored on all three.

….The Canadiens have lost a league-leading ten of the twenty-eight games in which they’ve taken the lead into the third period (18-6-4).

….Max Domi has three goals, three assists over his last four games. The goal was his 16th of the season.

….Charles Hudon returned to the Canadiens, playing on the fourth line with Jake Evans and Dale Weise. Of his 11:52 ice time, 2:47 came on the Canadiens power play. He currently leads the AHL in power play goals with 14.

….The Danault/Tatar/Gallagher line produced one goal while posting 13 of the Canadiens 34 shots on goal and six of the Canadiens eleven high danger scoring chances. Danault led with six shots on goal and four HDCF.

….Price has now started eleven straight games and seventeen of the last eighteen. With only one set of back-to-back games remaining in the season he’s probably going to start fifteen of the remaining sixteen games which would bring his season total to seventy.

….This is the second time this season the Rangers have come back to beat the Canadiens at the Bell Centre. In November the Rangers trailed 4-0 and came back to win 6-5.

MOVING ON

The Canadiens host Carolina Saturday night. After that, only five of the Canadiens remaining fourteen games will be at the Bell Centre, which may be a blessing. The Canadiens will be on the road next week against the Islanders, Tampa and Florida.