Montreal Gazette

Slumping Canadiens get day off before Capitals come to town


Fresh off a stretch that saw them play four games in six nights, and allowing seven goals for the second time in three contests, Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis cancelled a scheduled practice on Friday.

Montreal was on the wrong end of a 7-4 slugfest to the New York Rangers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, despite escaping the first period with a 1-0 lead and not allowing the first goal until 11:09 of the second. From there, the scoring escalated. New York produced four goals in a span of 4:10 and the Canadiens were unable to stop the bleeding.

“Four goals in four minutes hurts,” St. Louis told journalist­s in New York following the game, stating the obvious. “Before that, we controlled the game.

“We played well in the first 29 minutes,” he added. “Afterwards, it was a little difficult. Offensivel­y, we were there, but there were too many defensive errors which cost us the game.”

It was the Rangers' sixth consecutiv­e victory. New York (35-16-3) leads the Metropolit­an Division and appears to be a serious Stanley Cup contender. Things should be easier for the Canadiens on Saturday night against Washington at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., SNE, Citytv, TVA Sports, TSN Radio-690, 98.5 FM).

The Capitals (23-21-8) sit seventh in the Metropolit­an, are 2-6-2 in their last 10 and have a minus-37 goal-differenti­al. The Canadiens defeated Washington 5-2 on Feb. 6.

“We had some really good moments, but there's obviously some areas to correct,” Brendan Gallagher told journalist­s in New York, having returned to the lineup after serving a five-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Islanders defenceman Adam Pelech. “That's kind of the nature of the game, especially when you're playing one of the best teams in the league in their building.

“Momentum is something you've got to be able to harness,” he added. “Obviously, giving up four goals that quick, when a building gets going it's pretty tough to slow down. We had the game in control. It gets away from you quick.”

The Canadiens, however, never quit. A late second-period goal from Juraj Slafkovsky reduced the deficit to 4-2, which gave Montreal some momentum, and reason for hope, heading into the final period. But New York restored its threegoal cushion less than five minutes into the third.

Cole Caufield's first of two goals made it 5-3, but the Rangers responded with a pair in 1:57, ending the suspense.

“That one kind of got away from us,” Caufield told reporters in New York. “It was a good first, but we've got to play a full 60 like that. There's really no excuse. It's obviously tough when they keep scoring non-stop. We're not happy with the result.”

Offensivel­y, we were there, but there were too many defensive errors which cost us the game.

The Canadiens' 5-0 victory at home against Anaheim last Tuesday obviously was an aberration. Montreal (22-24-8) has lost three of its last four and seven of 10. And time is running out on the team in its pursuit of a playoff berth. The Canadiens are seventh in the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt, eight points behind Detroit, the Red Wings having played one fewer game.

“We want to win these games and stay in the mix for the playoffs,” said Slafkovsky, now on a seven-game points streak with six goals and five assists. “We have to do a better job. We can't let seven goals in. You can't really win games when that happens.

“I don't know what happened. The only thing we can do now is learn from it.”

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