Game Analysis: Hurricanes At Canadiens

Drayson Bowman's defensive play has been solid all season, and he is now creating scoring opportunities on a nightly basis. - Richard Wolowicz

The Carolina Hurricanes’ winning streak stalled at three games in Montreal as the Canadiens used a three-goal third period to top the Canes, 3-0, at the Bell Centre.

For two periods, the Carolina Hurricanes kept themselves in a position to steal two points in Montreal. But Brandon Prust scored early in the third, then two flukey bounces got by Cam Ward to give the Canadiens a 3-0 win. Here's a closer look at Monday’s loss.

Three Observations

1. If you've watched any international hockey, you might have recognized the Hurricanes’ game plan from Monday night. It looked a lot like the tactics the Swiss National Team employs when overmatched: protect your own end at any cost and hope the other team makes a mistake. For two periods it worked: the scoreboard was empty and one bounce or chance could swing the momentum in Carolina's favor. Instead, it was Montreal who got the game’s first goal and the Hurricanes couldn't muster enough of an attack to score on Peter Budaj.

2. With so many new faces in the lineup, coach Kirk Muller could have easily made excuses following the loss. Two of his top three defensemen were out again, then he lost his No. 2 scorer (Jeff Skinner) and his utility man (fourth-line center Tim Brent) and had to insert two new forwards in the lineup. But Muller didn't use the personnel as justification for the 3-0 loss. Neither the coach nor the team leadership (the Staals, in particular) did anything to imply injuries and fill-ins were the cause of the loss. Muller preached accountability when he took the job in Carolina, and even on a night when he was justified in talking about his depleted lineup, he instead pinned the loss on a lack of energy. It's easy to preach your message when things are going well, but Muller may have had the best moment of his young head coaching career by not letting his team off the hook Monday night when he easily could have done just that.

3. Alexander Semin is still having "ooh" moments every night, but it's worth noting he has now gone three games without a point. His contributions do go beyond the score sheet — he was arguably the Hurricanes’ best penalty killing forward Monday — but there has been a little too much dangling from Semin in the offensive zone the past few games. Semin continued to work hard on PK, but much like Muller sending the right message following the loss, Semin needs to get back to looking for his teammates and involving everyone. One thing you can't question, though, is his effort.

Number To Know

309:36 — Time on ice this season for Justin Faulk, who has yet to take a penalty. His 23:48 a night ranks 33rd in the NHL, and no other defenseman in the league who has played in seven or more games and averaged 20-plus minutes of ice time has gone without a penalty. Nashville's Kevin Klein is the closest, averaging 19:53 a night with no PIMs. Muller and his staff have been wise in their use of Faulk, who has emerged as the team’s top defenseman, only ramping up his minutes into the upper 20s when the Hurricanes have ample rest time between games. Monday marked the first time in his career Faulk has broke the half-game barrier, logging 30:33 of ice time.

Plus

Drayson Bowman — Bowman is still looking for his first goal of the year — his lone point came when he sprung Chad LaRose on a breakaway against Ottawa on Feb. 7 — but he's been knocking on the door. The third line has been disappointing from a scoring perspective, especially since coach Kirk Muller was adamant that production beyond the top six was essential, but it feels like a breakthrough could be coming. Jussi Jokinen, who centered the third line until filling injured Skinner’s spot on Jordan Staal’s line Monday, had scored in two straight games, and now Bowman is getting at least one prime chance a night. It won't be long before one finds its way in the net.

Minus

Bobby Sanguinetti — Sanguinetti was needed in all situations Monday, but was victimized twice on Montreal goals. He was turned inside-out by Alex Galchenyuk on the first goal of the game, scored when Brandon Prust collected Galchenyuk's rebound and fired in what would be the game-winning goal. Later on Tomas Plekanec's goal, Sanguinetti failed to get the puck deep in the Montreal zone and that led to a Canadiens 2-on-2 rush. While the goal was a bit flukey — Plekanec's shot caught Ward near the collarbone and clearly stung the Carolina netminder — the Hurricanes were unable to establish a forecheck at the other end of the ice because Sanguinetti's dump in was easilty collected by Alexei Yemelin.

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