The Detroit Red Wings dropped an ugly, ugly 6-1 decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night…
And things do not get easier for the 2-2-and-1 Red Wings as they play against the 0-4-and-1 Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago on Sunday (7 PM EDT start on Bally Sports Detroit/NBC Sports Chicago/Sportsnet One/NHL Network/97.1 FM)
With Tyler Bertuzzi absent, and Filip Hronek a healthy scratch, the Red Wings lacked energy, intensity, speed through the neutral zone and general attention to detail, and as a result, the Red Wings really, really struggled against a quality Canadiens team that was just looking for an opportunity to break out.
The Blackhawks are in a similar situation to Montreal, so, while it’s still entirely possible to look at Saturday night’s game as an aberration, should the Red Wings lay another egg in Chicago, then there’s some room for legitimate concern.
On Saturday night, as the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey notes, the Habs “got the monkey off their back” via scoring 5 goals in 15:44 of 2nd period action…
Mike Hoffman, who scored his first goal of the season on the power play, said it was important to get a win before embarking on a four-game road trip to the western United States
“This was a big win,” Hoffman said. “We have a couple of days off and a long flight (to Seattle) tomorrow and it wouldn’t have been a fun atmosphere if we had lost again tonight. The guys are going to have some fun for a couple of days and then get back to work.”
Defenceman Sami Niku made the most of his first appearance for the Canadiens. He picked up a couple of assists and was named one of the three stars after finishing at plus-3. Niku was a late arrival in camp after being picked up from Winnipeg on waivers and had a setback when he suffered a concussion in his first exhibition game against Ottawa. He was a healthy scratch for the first five regular-season games and hadn’t played in the NHL since March 1, 2021.
“It was my first real game in seven months (and) I needed to find my rhythm at the beginning,” Niku said. “I felt better from the second period. I was confident, I knew I could play a good game. It was tough watching all those games and not being able to help the team.”
And for hometown boy Mathieu Perreault, from Drummondville, it was a magical night:
“You don’t dream about a moment like this,” Perreault said. “You dream about being in the NHL and maybe playing for the Montreal Canadiens, but now, to actually score a hat-trick in the home building, it’s unbelievable and I’m trying to take it in as much as I can.”
The close-to-sellout crowd was in a giddy mood as the Canadiens rolled up the score. They did the wave and began chanting Perreault’s name after he scored an empty-net goal with 6:44 to play to complete his hat-trick
“When they chanted my name, I had chills,” Perrault said. “It’s one of those moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I was happy we were getting a win and I had a hat-trick and I was trying to soak it in. The crowd was cheering my name and it’s something I may never experience again.”
When Perreault was told he was the first Quebec player to score a hat-trick for the Canadiens at home since Vincent Damphousse did it in 1998 when the building was known as the Molson Centre, he said: “I guess I’m in pretty good company.”
Canadiens coach Dominic Ducharme told NHL.com’s Sean Farrell that the Habs were simply taking care of business…
Mathieu Perreault scored his third NHL hat trick, Christian Dvorak and Ben Chiarot each had a goal and an assist, and Sami Niku had two assists in his debut with the Canadiens (1-5-0), whose losing streak was their longest to start a season since 1995-96. Jake Allen made 26 saves.
“Nobody wants to have that feeling again,” Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme said. “That was a long 10 days.”
“We knew he was going to be out, and he’s out,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “We had 20 dressed good enough to win the hockey game. We’ve got to execute better.”
“We were giving them some pretty good looks,” Red Wings defenseman Marc Staal said. “I mean, one of them goes off my skate and in. The other ones are just 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s, so [Greiss is] not to blame. We weren’t giving him enough support and just making it easy on them. They were really hard on him.”
And Ducharme told the Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan that it was good to get the Bell Centre back on the home team’s side:
After so many games at an empty Bell Centre during the last regular season because of COVID-19 and an almost-empty building during the playoff run, it was wonderful to see and hear the building come back to life after a terrible 0-5-0 start to the season by the Canadiens.
“I think playing here we know how much energy we can get from the fans,” head coach Dominique Ducharme said. “But also when things don’t go that well you can feel also the pressure.”
For players like Perreault who are new to the Canadiens this season and even for those who first joined the team last season, this was their first experience playing in a real party atmosphere at the Bell Centre.
“I imagine they were trying to figure out what would it have been in the playoffs to have that building filled and have that energy,” Ducharme said. “They were looking forward to that and having that kind of night at least showed them what kind of fans that we have and how much passion they have for the team.”
Ducharme continued while speaking with Sportsnet’s Eric Engels:
“Obviously, it’s good to get that first one,” Ducharme said. “We talked about it, but I think the one thing now—and the reason why I say it’s going to make us better—is we don’t want to go back there. Nobody wants to have that feeling again. It was the longest 10 days (during the losing streak). You’re going back home, you still have that with you. Even though you don’t want to think about it, it’s right there, it’s no fun. That’s one thing we’ll make sure of is we don’t want to get that feeling back.
“I think it’s going to make us better in that sense, because we know and we understand how much urgency that we need to put into our game and the compete level and so on. Are we going to be perfect? No. But I think it’s going to make us better, and it’s still a long season, and we have work to do and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Canadian Press’s recap will serve as our pivot point between the Canadiens and Red Wings’ perspectives…
Perreault, Christian Dvorak and Mike Hoffman all scored their first goals in Canadiens uniforms. Defenseman Sami Niku also earned his first points in his first start, finishing with two assists. Jake Allen made 26 saves.
”It’s good to get that first one but the one thing now, the reason it will make us better is that we don’t want to go back,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said. ”Nobody wants to have that feeling again. It was the longest 10 days.”
Detroit goalie Thomas Greiss was pulled in the second period after conceding five goals on 17 shots. Alex Nedeljkovic stopped all six shots in relief.
”We were playing good hockey, we scored on the power play (but) we took three offensive-zone penalties and that’s something that’s plagued us throughout the early part of the season,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. ”We’ve taken too many penalties. We’ve talked about it, we got to stay out of the box and we certainly can’t take offensive-zone penalties.”
Blashill and Staal also talked about “the building,” as Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen noted…
The Red Wings were down 2-1, but still in the game when the Canadiens struck for three third period goals. The Habs’ momentum was a factor. A Saturday night game in Montreal is a different experience for players than playing in other arenas.
“We have to learn to handle that better,” Detroit alternate captain Marc Staal said.
The momentum lifted the Canadiens. They were buzzing around the ice, finding open ice and odd-man breaks and Red Wing breakdowns. “It was like an avalanche,” Staal said.
Blashill agreed with Staal’s assessment about his rebuilding team’s need to find ways to handle the pressure of those situations.
“Not every building has the momentum that this building can create,” Blashill said.
And the Red Wings felt that their penalties were the torpedoes that damned their ship, as Blashill and Staal told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
“We can’t take offensive zone penalties,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “They got some momentum. They played way better than us in the second, and we gave up way too many easy chances. You can’t give up easy chances and expect to win.”
The Wings (2-2-1) have lost two in a row after gaining points in their first three games. They knew they’d be facing a desperate team in the Canadiens, who lost their first five games. It started well enough when Dylan Larkin converted on a power play in the first period, but Ben Chiarot tied it and Mike Hoffman scored for Montreal while Danny DeKeyser was in the box for tripping. Christian Dvorak made it 3-1 early in the second, and Mathieu Perreault piled on with a natural hat trick on an empty-net goal in the third.
Three of the Wings’ four penalties were in the offensive zone.
“It’s the type of penalties,” alternate captain Marc Staal said. “Sometimes they’re good penalties and you need to make them out of desperation to stop a scoring chance. But we are not taking those types of penalties. We’re taking stick penalties and tripping and needless penalties away from the play. Those will hurt you. It’s definitely something we need to look at.”
The Wings have been shorthanded 20 times, with a penalty kill at 75%.
“I’ve addressed it with our team,” Blashill said. “At the end of the night, we can’t expect to take this many penalties and expect to win.”
Staal continued while speaking with the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan…
“We played pretty good to start the game, then we took three (offensive zone) penalties in a row, which is tough to kill,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “You get into this building and their crowd gets into it and they’re feeding off it, and we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot over and over. We just kept giving it to them and it was an avalanche. It’s different playing on the road, in these environments, and we have to handle it better.”
The momentum clearly shifted to Montreal and the Wings weren’t able to swing it back their way.
“It goes back to managing that momentum and when you have a young team that does not have a lot of experience in an environment like this, it starts to get away from you,” Staal said. “You have to learn to handle it better and stay together and stay tight on the ice and not beat ourselves in situations where the home team is getting momentum.”
But Blashill insisted that the absences of Bertuzzi and Hronek were not the reasons why the Red Wings lost. Instead, Blashill blamed the forward group…
“We didn’t have enough guys. … There’s still more from our group of forwards, especially,” Blashill said. “There’s still more from a number of guys and we need guys playing at their ‘A’ games.”
“[Bertuzzi] was out and we knew he’d be out,” Blashill said. “We had 20 dressed good enough to win the hockey game.”
And on defense, Blashill insisted that Hronek was just out due to a “coach’s decision”:
“We have eight defensemen that are NHL defensemen, so I made the decision to put Stech in,” Blashill said. “Someone has to come out and it’s nothing specific, just a coach’s decision. Jordan Oesterle hasn’t played (this season) and he’s a good NHL defensemen. Our defense played fine. If I was going through our lineup and rate our players, our forwards were below their norm more than our defensemen. For the most part, the defense played up to their norm or above.”
I would argue that the Red Wings had a lot of company in the “not playing up to their norm” department, at forward, on defense, and in goal, all over the course of a thoroughly disappointing performance, but that’s just me.
And we’ll see whether the Red Wings can rebound from by tomorrow night at this time.
Highlights: Sportsnet posted an 8:19 highlight clip:
NHL.com posted a 9:12 highlight clip:
Post-game: The Canadiens’ website posted post-game comments from Sami Niku…
Forward Mike Hoffman…
Defenseman Ben Chiarot…
Hat trick-scorer Mathieu Perreault…
And coach Dominic Ducharme:
Bally Sports Detroit posted a 3:38 clip of Marc Staal’s post-game remarks…
And a 2:34 clip of coach Jeff Blashill’s post-game presser:
Mickey Redmond was asked to assess the state of the, well, Habs…
The Free Press posted Blashill’s full 6:41 presser:
The Red Wings posted a 1:51 combined clip of Staal and Blashill’s remarks:
Photos: The Free Press posted a 19-image gallery;
The Detroit News posted an 11-image gallery;
NHL.com posted a 65-image gallery.