California has not proven to a be a preferred getaway destination for the Montreal Canadiens in recent years, especially when they visit the “Shark Tank.”
The Canadiens look to end a long winless streak in The Golden State and earn their first win at the SAP Center in more than 17 years when they face the San Jose Sharks on Friday night in a matchup of division leaders.
Montreal, which sits atop the Atlantic, has gone 0-6-2 in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose since topping the Ducks in a shootout on March 5, 2014. Also, after its last win on Nov. 23, 1999, Montreal is 0-7-2 in San Jose, having been outscored 37-17 and blanked three times.
The Canadiens have allowed 11 power-play goals in 35 chances to the Sharks following their last northern California win.
“I guess it's time for a change,” defenseman Shea Weber told the Montreal Gazette.
Over the first 15 games this season, the Canadiens were conjuring up images of dominant teams that would go on to lift the Stanley Cup 24 times.
Montreal charged out to a 13-1-1 start, scoring at least three goals in all but two games. Five players — Weber, Alex Galchenyuk, Alexander Radulov, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Byron — combined for 23 goals and 40 assists, with Galchenyuk and Weber each scoring six goals. Byron, who's never had more than 11 in a season, chipped in with five.
Over their last eight contests, the offense has dried up as Montreal has gone 3-4-1 and been held to two goals or less six times. The five players who powered the Habs' offense early on have totaled 10 goals and 12 assists since their hot starts.
The lack of offense was evident again Tuesday night when the Canadiens opened the California portion of their five-game road trip. Andrew Shaw helped Montreal avoid its second shutout of the season by scoring with two minutes to play in a 2-1 loss to the Ducks. It was also the Habs' sixth straight game decided by one goal.
“We have to figure out a way to score,” coach Michel Therrien told the Montreal Gazette. “We had 40 shots … and we had some quality scoring chances, but we couldn't put the puck in the net.”
San Jose (14-9-1) enters play with a three-point lead over Anaheim and the Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific, and returns home looking for its sixth win in seven games after defeating Los Angeles 4-1 on Wednesday behind two goals and an assist from Logan Couture.
Couture has been red-hot over the last six games with five goals and two assists. Brent Burns also has seven points over that span, including three goals. Both players are tied for the team lead with nine goals while Burns and Joe Pavelski each have a team-best 21 points.
Couture has scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in seven career games against the Canadiens. In four home games versus Montreal, Couture has two goals and five assists to help the Sharks go 4-0-0.
Barring injury or anything unforeseen, the game will feature two of the NHL's top goalies in Montreal's Carey Price and San Jose's Martin Jones.
Price, who stopped 36 shots against Anaheim, is expected to make his sixth straight start, and he told the Canadiens' official website what the team needs to do to end their San Jose skid.
“If we have puck support and we keep moving out feet, we make it difficult on teams. That's kind of our forte. We have to get back to that,” he said.
Price is 13-2-1 with a 1.68 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and two shutouts. He's 0-3-1 over four career starts in San Jose with a GAA just under 4.
Jones is 12-8-1 with a 2.04 GAA, with a .921 save percentage and he also has two shutouts in 2016-17. He's faced Montreal four times in his career with San Jose and Los Angeles, recording a 3-1-0 record with a 2.25 GAA, .911 save percentage and one shutout.
“He's always been comfortable. He's always been calm. He's elite. He's a pretty experienced guy. He's always been good,” Burns said of Jones.