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The Canadiens really should dedicate more time to practising 3-on-3 overtime.
Like a full practice … or two … or three.
Unfortunately, there’s not much time for practice during this condensed 56-game NHL season, but the Canadiens can’t afford to keep losing points in overtime and shootouts.
The Canadiens lost 2-1 to the Canucks in a shootout Monday night in Vancouver and are now 0-4 in overtime and 0-3 in shootouts this season. That’s seven lost points as the Canadiens’ record fell to 11-6-7 and they remain in fourth place in the all-Canadian North Division.
It looked like this game wasn’t going to get to overtime with the Canadiens protecting a 1-0 lead on a first-period power-play goal by Jeff Petry.
But with 40.5 seconds left in the third period and Vancouver goalie Demko Thatcher on the bench for an extra attacker, the Canucks’ Adam Gaudette beat Carey Price with a slapshot that went post-and-in.
“It was almost the perfect shot from where he shot it,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said after the game. “The percentage of that puck going in is not really big, but it did. So it happened. We’ll be back on Wednesday (against the Canucks again) and making sure we take what we’ve done in the last four, five games and we keep making it better.”
The Canadiens now have a 2-1-3 record in the six games since Ducharme took over from Claude Julien as head coach.
Nick Suzuki, Jonathan Drouin and Tomas Tatar all missed in the shootout for the Canadiens, while Bo Horvat scored the winner for the Canucks.
Petry’s goal was his ninth of the season, tying him for the league lead among defencemen with the Florida Panthers’ Aaron Ekblad. Petry ranks second in points among NHL defencemen wth 9-14-23 totals, one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Victor Hedman with 5-19-24.
Both teams looked very tentative in overtime with the Canadiens getting only one shot on goal and the Canucks getting two. The Canucks’ J.T. Miller hit the crossbar in OT and Price made a spectacular, sprawling glove save on Brock Boeser to get the Canadiens into the shootout.
“I don’t think it’s getting in our heads at all,” Petry said about the Canadiens’ inability to win a game in OT or a shootout this season. “Dom put in a new style that he wants us to execute on the three-on-three. You don’t want to force something because it’s one missed shot, it comes around the boards, it’s an odd-man rush the other way. So it’s just about making smart decisions and making sure you don’t force something that’s going to turn into an odd-man rush on the way back.
“I think we have a plan in place that we need to execute and try to tire them out and that’s when we need to strike,” Petry added. “I don’t think we had too many chances to get to their net. It’s not something you practise too often. But I guess watch a little video or just discuss the options that we have because getting those points when you do go into overtime are huge.”
Ducharme said he has worked on OT during video sessions with his players and will continue to do so. Ducharme sent Phillip Danault, who has yet to score a goal this season, out to start the OT and he lost the opening faceoff. Petry was the only defenceman to see the ice during OT as Ducharme went with three forwards at times.
“We have a game plan that we have in place that we want to try and tire them out and not try and force a play that’s going to result in an odd-man rush coming back,” Petry said. “When executed properly it can definitely pay off.”
Ducharme admitted his players were a little bit tentative in OT.
“There’s a fine line between being patient and tentative, I find,” he said. “If you get impatient and you loose the puck too quick attacking and creating one-on-ones, that’s not the way to do it in three-on-three . So sometimes it might look a little bit tentative or patient. But, at the same time, you want to set up movement and so on and create maybe a little bit of fatigue on the other side and force a bad decision or a guy’s going to leave for a bad change or something to open up and really from there take advantage of it. I thought a couple of times we lost the puck where we shouldn’t.”
When Price was asked if there’s anything different the Canadiens can do in OT, he responded: “Score first, probably.”
He added: “We’re trying out there. It’s not like we’re going out there to lose. The other team’s trying to win, too, and we just need to find a way to do it.”
Price feeling better
Price made 28 saves as his record fell to 7-4-4 with a 2.69 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage. He has allowed only one goal in each of his last three games.
“I feel better,” he said. “The team’s playing solid hockey in front of me.
“We’re just eliminating plays,” Price added. “Trying to eliminate their speed. When you’re on top of your game and you’re working in unison the system works.”
When asked if there are any technical points he has improved on since the firing of goalie coach Stéphane Waite last week, Price said: “Just playing better. I’m not going to give you my technical secrets. The guys are playing solid hockey in front of me and letting me see the puck.”
As for the work he has done by video conference with Sean Burke, the Canadiens’ new director of goaltending who is going through a 14-day COVID-19 quarantine, and Laval Rocket goalie coach Marco Marciano, who is working with him on the ice at practices, Price said: “They’re sending positive messages my way and just trying to apply everything and be a sponge.”
Adjusting to new system
Ducharme said the Canadiens are getting “better and better” at playing under the new system he is putting in place.
“I don’t think we gave them much tonight,” he said. “We had chances that we would like to have back and that we could have scored. I think we gave ourselves enough chances to score goals, but we got to finish. Defensively, without the puck, the way we’re coming back and applying pressure and forcing plays and creating turnovers, we’re doing a good job. So a lot of good things.”
The Canadiens outshot Vancouver 30-29 and outhit them 24-17, while the Canucks won 58 per cent of the faceoffs. The Canadiens went 1-for-2 on the power play, while the Canucks went 0-for-3.
Petry led the Canadiens in ice time with 26:04, followed by Shea Weber with 22:45 and Ben Chiarot with 21:56. Suzuki led the forwards with 20:30 of ice time, followed by Josh Anderson with 19:10 and Danault with 18:44.
Anderson had a team-leading six shots, while Brendan Gallagher and Tyler Toffoli had four each. Jesperi Kotkaniemi had a team-leading four hits, while Anderson had three.
Danault went 13-14 on faceoffs (48 per cent), Suzuki went 6-9 (40 per cent), Kotkaniemi went 3-6 (33 per cent) and Jake Evans went 0-2.
Homecoming for Burrows
Monday night’s game was a homecoming of sorts for new Canadiens assistant coach Alex Burrows, who played 12 seasons with the Canucks.
Burrows took over responsibility of the power play from former associate coach Kirk Muller, who was fired at the same time as Julien. In the first six games since the firings, the Canadiens are 5-for-11 on the power play.
Tatar had a lengthy discussion with Burrows during Monday’s morning skate.
“Alex was a great player, so he has a lot to offer,” Tatar said. “I’ve always liked to talk to him and listen to what he has to say. I think he has a real energy, what he brought to our team, and that’s great to see. I think so far we did a great job with him and hopefully we’ll continue to grow.”
Milestone for Gervais
Monday night’s game was the 3,000th in the NHL for Pierre Gervais, the Canadiens’ head equipment manager.
Gervais joined the Canadiens as an assistant equipment manager in 1987-88 following five seasons with the AHL’s Sherbrooke Canadiens. Before that he worked for five seasons in the QMJHL with teams in Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke.
He has a Stanley Cup ring from 1993 with the Canadiens.
Adjusting to the time change
During a normal season, the Canadiens would fly to Vancouver a couple of days before a game to get used to the three-hour time change, but things are different during this compressed NHL season.
The Canadiens only flew out of Montreal at noon on Sunday. Ducharme said the team’s strength-and-conditioning coaches gave the players a plan after they arrived at the hotel Sunday afternoon to help them adjust to the time change.
Monday night’s game was the first of six in 10 days on this Western Canada road trip that includes two games each against the Canucks, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.
“I think every road trip is different and we need to manage rest vs. games and practices,” Ducharme said. “We’ll do that. But it’s not that much different. It’s important to have a good feel of where the team is and what our team needs in terms of is it better to have a meeting than going on the ice. Mentally where they’re at because it’s one thing physically, but you got to consider the mental side of it. So we’ll take all that into consideration.
“You can start with a plan, but sometimes you need to adjust,” Ducharme added. “We have an idea what we want to do in the next eight, nine days, but we’ll just adjust it day-by-day.”
The Canadiens have a 6-1-6 record on the road this season.
Romanov having fun
Video conferences with Alexander Romanov are a lot of fun to watch as the 21-year-old Russian defenceman continues to improve his English.
He also seems to have a lot of fun doing them, regularly laughing and flashing a big smile while answering questions from the media.
Romanov has 1-4-5 totals this season and is plus-3 while averaging 17:31 of ice time.
When asked after Monday’s morning skate what part of his game he’s looking to improve most, Romanov said: “I want to improve everything in my game because I’m never happy. Every single moment, every single game I want to upgrade a little bit everything I have.”
When asked what he has learned from watching Petry, Romanov smiled and said: “Oh, he’s a very good player. He’s playing on the blue line … it’s amazing. I want his shot, I want his movement on the blue line. It’s awesome.”
When Ducharme was asked about Romanov’s performance as a rookie, the coach said: “There isn’t just one particular aspect of his game (that needs improvement). It might sound cliché, but he’s just starting out in the NHL. He has things to learn. He’ll get more and more experience, both offensively and defensively. You can’t buy experience. He’s heading in the right direction. He just has to keep on playing the way he’s been playing.”
The Canadiens have a practice scheduled for Tuesday in Vancouver before facing the Canucks again Wednesday night (11 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). After that, the Canadiens will travel to Calgary to play the Flames on Thursday (9 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and Saturday (7 p.m., SNE, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
Next week, the Canadiens will play the Jets in Winnipeg on Monday (8 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and Wednesday (9 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), before returning to Montreal for six straight games at the Bell Centre.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021