The plan was sound, but the execution left something to be desired,
Coach Claude Julien put all his eggs in one basket when he decided to give Carey Price the start in goal against Ottawa in the second half of a back-to-back set Wednesday night at the Bell Centre. Price also started the first game Tuesday in Columbus.
Price did his part, as he limited the Senators to one goal on 23 shots in regulation time, but the Canadiens were unable to take advantage of a 36-shot barrage in the direction of Craig Anderson.
For the second consecutive night, Julien’s post-game comment centred on the Canadiens’ inability to finish.
“We have to take it upon ourselves to be better,” Julien said. “There are areas where we need to be better. Our game isn’t bad, but we let them hang around and laziness on the part of our forwards in overtime cost us a point.”
The forwards in question were rookie Nick Suzuki and Tomas Tatar, who finds himself back in Julien’s doghouse. They were caught flat-footed when Nikita Zaitsev sent Brady Tkachuk loose on a breakaway which produced the winning goal.
“(Tkachuk) came with speed. I tried to match his speed, but he made a pretty good move,” Price said.
“Last two games I thought we deserved a better result,” Phillip Danault said. “But we need more finish. We need to capitalize more. Yesterday was the same thing and then they just scored more goals.”
“I thought we played pretty good these last two games,” Price added. “I don’t think we laid an egg. I thought we were doing a good job of creating opportunities and Anderson played pretty well.”
While the Canadiens picked up a point for the overtime loss, this was their third straight defeat after upsetting the Washington Capitals last Friday in Washington. They lost in overtime to New Jersey at home Saturday and lost in regulation Tuesday in Columbus. All three of the losses came against teams that trail them in the standings.
The decision to start Price was based on the assumption that he gave the Canadiens the best chance to win an important — and winnable — game. While Ottawa came out of the game trailing Montreal by six points, they are a division rival and the lost point could come back to haunt Montreal.
Julien has floated the idea of playing Price in back-to-back games on at least two other occasions this season and decided to go through with the double duty after weighing a number of factors. The schedule was the most important consideration. He noted that Price had been off since beating the Capitals on Friday and would have two more days off before facing the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Julien said he consulted with Price before making the decision.
“I wouldn’t send him out there if he was tired,” Julien said.
When asked about the back-to-back starts, Price described them as “doable.”
Charles Hudon played a strong game and had three shots on goal as part of the high-energy fourth line. But a few minutes after the game, the Canadiens announced that Hudon has been reassigned to the Laval Rocket in a move that could be related to his waiver status. He was sent down after making his season debut Saturday and recalled 24 hours later.
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