Well, anyone who was hoping that the Canadiens had overcome their problems playing at home got an unwelcome reality check last night, as the Florida Panthers continued their mysterious dominance over the Habs in 3-2 victory during which the Habs never threatened, and never really threatened to threaten.
You can make that 27 wins all-time for the Panthers against the Habs, against just 16 losses and four overtime losses. The only team with a winning record against the once-mighty Canadiens made it look easy, outshooting, outhitting, and generally outplaying the home-team, despite a last-minute flurry. The Habs troubles with giveaways - the main cause of their last loss, against the Tampa Bay Lightning - surfaced again, as they coughed up the puck with striking eagerness against a trapping Florida team that is programmed to feed on exactly that sort of mistake.
Indeed, the Panthers put on a clinic of exactly the type of game that Coach Carbo would have his own team play: perimeter defense, protected by a neutral zone trap that morphs into a hard fore-check when the opportunity arises. After such a disappointing loss, perhaps we can at least hope that the Habs were taking notes.
Carey Price leads the list of let-downs tonight. He was weak on two of the goals, one of which he literally teed-up for the Panthers' Brett McLean. The other, a 40-footer by Stephen Weiss, he simply should have stopped. It was an AHL goal, and it turned out to be the game-winner. Over his seven straight starts, Price is 3-3-1, not awful, but not impressive. He made some nice stops in this one, and couldn't be faulted for the first goal, but he also let in some softies and must take the heat for this loss. Look for Huet to return against Washington on Thursday, and hope that he brings his A-game.
On the bright side, how about Andrei Markov with two goals? Captain Koivu drew an assist on one of them, and played ferociously throughout. Michael Ryder showed signs of life, blinking his eye-lids repeatedly, a development that temporarily cheered fans until an Army surgeon dropped by and revealed that Ryder was blinking the message, "Kill me" in Morse code, over and over. The horror ...
Ah well, better things on Thursday, for sure.