The Engels Angle: Habs Have Soul-Searching to do
Carolina Hurricanes' Tuomo Ruutu (15), of Finland, controls the puck as Montreal Canadiens' Brian Gionta (21) chases and P.K. Subban falls to the ice during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, March 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
By Eric Engels
Published Wednesday, March 30, 2011 11:21PM EDT
The Canadiens out-shot, out-played, out-hustled and out-chanced the Hurricanes in the first period of this game, and to their misfortune, Carolina took a 2-0 lead to the dressing room, and never looked back.
James Wisniewski missed two great opportunities within the first three minutes of the game. Scott Gomez recorded three shots, and generated several opportunities for Brian Gionta and Mathieu Darche to cash in on, but the stale offence of the Canadiens couldn't break through in their best period.
The Hurricanes only had two great opportunities in the first; both of them came off Jeff Skinner's skilled stick, and both of them went past Carey Price. Not coincidentally, the goals were a result of the only two mistakes the Habs made in the period.
That's the kind of luck this team's had with this ill-timed fumble at the 95th yard of this arduous drive towards the regular-season end zone. And don't think they weren't aware of the unfavourable circumstances that befell them.
You'd have thought they could put the bad bounces aside and ride the momentum they had created, and they did exactly that, when Mike Cammalleri scored the team's first powerplay goal in four games. It was Cammalleri's second over his last 15. And it was supposed to be the turning-point the Canadiens needed.
Instead, Price was featured collecting the third puck to get by him on the night, a mere 43-seconds later. Clearly discouraged, Price could only be blamed for the one that beat him less than three minutes after the deflating Mcbain goal.
P.K. Subban collected the team's second powerplay marker on the night with more than 10-minutes to go in the third period. The goal was scored at an opportune moment, opening the door once again for Montreal to comeback. Subban erased the opportunity with a slashing penalty on his very next shift.
You can't expect the psyche of the team to be anything but fragile after a humiliating and disjointed week of anti-hockey.
Montreal's win over the Thrashers might be considered the biggest one of the season, after the Hurricanes stole two points in Washington to save their playoff hopes. Those two points, in this terrible stretch the Canadiens have suffered, are the only reason this situation isn't completely desperate right now. But it certainly seems dire.
Reeling their way into New Jersey, with Martin Brodeur being the last goalie a failing Canadiens offence would want to face, is daunting. If they can't respond in Jersey, that forces them to pick up two points in their final home game of the season-- a significant task against reigning Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, who are fighting for their playoff lives.
While Montreal will have to worry about what fate has in store for them if they can't deliver in either of those match-ups, the Hurricanes will try their luck against the Islanders and Sabres over the weekend. They'll finish their season with a game against the Detroit Red Wings, and back-to-backs divisional games against Atlanta and Tampa, respectively.
The team's health, its stability and its desire has been called into question.
Will they find the answer? They've got some soul-searching to do.