It took only minutes into Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks for the Montreal Canadiens season-opening, nine-game winning streak to feel in jeopardy.
Moments after Daniel Sedin rang a goal off the post, Canucks rookie Jared McCann scored 2:30 into the game to put Vancouver ahead.
It was the first time Montreal gave up a first-period goal all season and preview of bad things to come in a 5-1 loss at Rogers Arena.
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The Canadiens (9-1-0) came into the game red-hot and with a chance to match a league record with 10 consecutive wins to start the season. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs (1993-94) and Buffalo Sabres (2006-07) have opened a season with 10 straight victories.
But whether all the talk of Montreal’s win streak was weighing on the Canadiens, captain Max Pacioretty wasn’t about to admit it.
"Other people talked about it, we didn’t," he said after the game. "We’ve gotten off to a great start this year, 9-and-1. But we’re not happy. You’re only as good as your last game and we weren’t very good tonight."
Vancouver, which was looking for its first home win of the season, came out looking like the team who wanted to stop Montreal’s winning ways. After McCann’s goal, a Luca Sbisa blast was tipped in accidentally by Montreal’s Nathan Beaulieu midway through the first.
At 15:52 McCann got his second of the night when he took a pass from ex-Hab Brandon Prust in the slot and fired it past Carey Price to make it 3-0.
Price, the reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy winner, looked beatable for the first time this season. He came into the game with only nine goals against in seven starts this season. On Tuesday, he gave up five goals on 28 shots.
"We left Price looking stranded and there’s no excuse for that," said Pacioretty. "We have to be better."
"That’s not the game we wanted to play and not the start we wanted," added Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry. "We weren’t on top of our game to start. We gave them the puck and they were able to make plays. To give them a 3-goal lead wasn’t the ideal start."
Early in the third period Torrey Mitchell tipped in an Alexei Emelin blast from the blue line to put the Canadiens on the board 3-1, as spatters of Go Habs Go erupted in the crowd. It looked like Montreal was swinging the momentum, but a Too Many Men penalty soon after resulted in Radim Vrbata’s power-play goal at 7:50 to make it 4-1 Vancouver.
"I don’t think the score indicates the game," said Montreal head coach Michel Therrien. "The Too Many Men we don’t think was a Too Many Men. (Alexander) Semin never played the puck, and (it) took away all the momentum that we were trying to build."
The Canadiens will have a chance to start a new win streak when they play their next game in Edmonton on Thursday.
Notes: Miller improved to 27-12-6 in his career against Montreal. … Prust appeared to injure his left ankle in the second period and did not return. … Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis sat out with a lower-body injury. … Canucks forward Jake Virtanen picked up his first NHL point with an assist on Dorsett’s goal.