Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens aim for comeback, stopped by Pittsburgh 4-1

It was back to back for the Montreal Canadiens, as they were in Pittsburgh on Thursday night. The Canadiens were trying to end a losing run at three, but they offered little resistance falling 4-1 to the Penguins.

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It was difficult to find anything to be positive about.

It was a low-event game. The Canadiens had a difficult time creating any offence. The top line was shut out for the second straight contest. When they’re shut out, it often means the entire team was shut out.

The only goal was a Mike Matheson marker as he took advantage of a Kris Letang giveaway in his own zone. Letang’s pass was right on the stick of Matheson at the blue line. He skated in and ripped a shot top corner.

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The rest of the evening, it was the perfect example of why the Canadiens need some serious scoring help in the coming seasons.

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For the first time this season, the Canadiens are five games under NHL .500. The fourth straight loss came courtesy of 21 bad seconds midway through the second period.  It was 1-1, then two quick goals, and everyone who watches the Canadiens regularly knew that it was over.

It was only 3-1, but that’s a bridge too far for a club that averages fewer than three goals per game. When a team can’t score much, the game can get away very quickly.

Cayden Primeau didn’t have a great night. He wasn’t at fault on the two quick goals in the second period. However, he likely could have done better on the opening marker from Kris Letang, who floated a 60-footer. Primeau redirected it into the net with the inside of his arm. The shot was going wide.

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For those who want a high draft pick, it’s coming together nicely as Montreal slipped into the sixth worst record in the league with the loss. The Canadiens also have the most difficult strength of schedule in the NHL.

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The club is not as good since the loss of Sean Monahan to Winnipeg for a first-round draft choice. Strength down the middle is vital, and the Canadiens only have Nick Suzuki who can compete against the top lines in the league.

The game also featured what looked like a serious injury to Jayden Struble. He could not put any weight on his leg as he crawled to the bench. Struble was then taken by the training staff down the tunnel — one man under each arm.

The on-ice moment itself didn’t look serious. Struble was simply skating, and didn’t suffer any contact. A non-contact injury can be serious, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

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GM Kent Hughes made a claim on forward Colin White on Thursday afternoon. White immediately walked over from the Pittsburgh dressing room to the Montreal one to face his old mates. That’s always an odd moment in sports, exchanging one jersey for another at 4 p.m.

Odder still is why Hughes would make a claim on a 27-year-old who likely won’t find the form that made him a first-round draft choice nine years ago. White has never figured it out at the NHL level. He has no goals this season in a limited role.

The reason a move was made is obvious as Hughes wants to strengthen his AHL lineup, so Brandon Gignac was sent back to the minors to help the Laval Rocket to make the playoffs. Why did he make this move though? This one has so little upside.

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The type of move he made last year in acquiring from Dallas Denis Gurianov is one that makes more sense. A reclamation project, whether it’s to fill a roster spot or not, should at least have a good chance to surprise to the upside.

In the end, Gurianov wasn’t good enough to stay, but some hit and some don’t. Jonathan Kovacevic is one that hit successfully, for example. Picking up a Colin White and passing on an Elli Tolvanen is not the manner that this is usually done.

The earth won’t move on White either way. He will come and then he will go. He will be a footnote in Hughes’ history and the Canadiens’ history as well. Tomorrow the sun will come up, but the waiver wire is full of players, and some even have hope their best days are in front of them.

Head Coach Martin St. Louis can work with those prospect hopefuls, and perhaps unlock the potential they haven’t shown yet. That would be a better way to fill the roster than taking a journeyman.

Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on after each Canadiens game.


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