That’s the best way to describe the Canadiens’ 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
It’s the kind of game you might expect from the Coyotes, a young team with the worst record in the NHL. But the Canadiens came away from this game realizing that they missed an opportunity to climb in the standings.
“This is the way we were playing early in the season,” said Brendan Gallagher. “We got better at it, but tonight, we fell into some old habits and we were sloppy. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. This is the NHL, and if we’re not playing Montreal Canadiens hockey, we’re not going to have success. But we got sloppy, we didn’t work.”
This was a game filled with turning points. The Canadiens took a 2-0 lead in the first period and it looked like it was going to be an easy night. But coach Claude Julien said the first turning point came when Nicolas Deslauriers, who was making his first appearance in a Canadiens uniform, dropped the gloves with Zac Rinaldo.
“In the second period, we got sloppy,” said Julien. “The fight gave them the energy. We didn’t respect our game plan because we thought it was going to be easy. We talked about it for two days. The result was unacceptable, embarrassing. There’s no excuse tonight.”
The game deteriorated into a series of end-to-end rushes, but the Canadiens came out of the second period with a 4-3 lead, and they started the third period with a power play. That’s when things went off the rails. Not only did the Canadiens fail to score, but they gave up two short-handed breakaways. Charlie Lindgren made the saves, but the momentum had swung to the visitors.
There were some notable absences in the third period that might have played into the final outcome.
Tomas Plekanec received a major penalty for fighting Brad Richardson as the second period came to an end. That meant one of the Canadiens’ top penalty-killers was in the box when Gallagher was sent off for tripping at 4:46. Derek Stepan needed only eight seconds to tie the score.
Christian Fischer scored the winning goal on another power play midway through the period. This time, it was Shea Weber who was in the penalty box. He received a tripping penalty when he tried to catch up to Tobias Rieder on a breakaway.
The Canadiens offence was short-handed for about 10 minutes because Gallagher was sent off to go through the concussion protocol after he was hit in the head by Jordan Martinook.
“It was frustrating, because I wanted to be out there to help get the tying goal,” said Gallagher. “I got hit in the face and it hurt, but I wasn’t dizzy or anything. I guess someone saw something and decided to check me out. You’re glad they’re looking out for the players, but I was okay. I passed the protocol but I missed about 10 minutes.”
For the first time in his brief NHL career, rookie goaltender Lindgren gave up more than two goals in a game, but it would be difficult to hang this loss on him. He stopped at least four clean breakaways.
“I felt really good out there today, (but) at the end of the day, it’s a loss,” said Lindgren. “No one likes it, but we have to move forward.”
The Canadiens went ahead 3-2 when Joe Morrow scored seconds after Lindgren stopped Clayton Keller on a breakaway.
“I thought that might be a turning point, but you have to give the Coyotes credit,” Lindgren said. “They’re a young team with a lot of talent. It’s a really tough loss to swallow right now.”