MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens dressing room remained closed to the media for a long time after their 5-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday night. And when it opened, every player was at his stall.
That’s a sure sign that a team is in a slump and is searching for answers.
“It’s embarrassing to be at home and play the way we did,” said defenceman Josh Gorges. “We have nobody to blame except ourselves and we have to be a lot more resilient moving forward.”
The Canadiens (27-20-5) have lost four in a row and five of six, allowing Eastern Conference rivals to move closer to the playoff spot they held by a comfortable margin until recently.
The slump has rumours flying of trades and has some questioning whether coach Michel Therrien’s job is safe, although Gorges doesn’t see a need for a change.
“I cannot see one guy that has lost faith in anyone in this organization,” he said. “That’s not who we are.
“Collectively, we’re just in a rut and we’re finding ways to beat ourselves. Tonight, once we got down, mentally we didn’t have that resiliency. But in no way, shape or form are we quitting on anybody.”
The Canadiens half-effort, in which they were outshot 27-3 at one point in the second frame before closing the gap to 34-21, was just what the struggling Capitals (23-21-8) needed.
Alex Ovechkin returned from missing two gamjes with a lower body injury to start a four-goal second period as the Capitals ended a seven-game winless run. The Caps had scored only eight goals in their seven previous games.
“It’s a big win, a good win for the boys,” said Ovechkin. “It brings some confidence back.
“This building is an exciting place. It’s good.”
John Erskine, Jay Beagle and John Carlson also scored in the middle period and Casey Wellman, who was recalled Saturday from AHL Hershey, scored on a feed from Ovechkin on a 2 on 1 counterattack 8:38 into the third period.
Erskine, Beagle and Wellman each got his first of the season, while Ovechkin got his league-leading 36th.
Carlson’s goal at 10:31 of the middle period chased goalie Carey Price in favour of backup Peter Budaj. It was a sixth straight game in which Montreal allowed four or more goals.
Caps goalie Braden Holtby improved his record against Montreal to 5-0-0 with two shutouts.
The Canadiens talked among themselves about the rut they are in after the game, but it was management that ordered every player to stay in the room to face the media.
They had been booed mercilessly by the 21,273 Bell Centre fans, who also gave a mock cheer when they were held without a shot on goal until Daniel Briere got only their fourth of the game at 12:25 of the second period.
“It’s probably the biggest cheer I ever got for making a save,” said Holtby.
“People should be frustrated,” said Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban. “I’m frustrated. Everybody’s frustrated in here.
“But that’s life. That’s part of the sport. It’s how you respond. I think we have the right attitude in here. We just have to work through it.”
Therrien said every team goes through bad patches in a season and it’s up to them to play their way out of it.
“That the players had a meeting shows they want to fix the problem,” he said. “I have confidence we will bounce back from this.”
Price said the meeting should help.
“We need to tackle this problem as a team,” he said. “Doing things individually is what got us to this point. So this was a good step.
“At this point, our support isn’t good enough. We have to battle better for our teammates. You have to count on the guy beside you. Right now we’re not doing that.”
The Canadiens seemed to go to pieces once Washington got the lead.
Ovechkin fed Troy Brouwer on a power play for a shot that was disallowed when video review found it entered the net a fraction of a second after the first period ended.
The man advantage had just ended when Ovechkin produced magic in the second period when Jason Chimera’s rebound looked to be floating past the net. He tapped the puck twice in the air to keep it from getting away, then he lifted it into an open side for his 36th of the season.
“It was kind of a tough angle, but it’s in and we’ll take it,” said Ovechkin.
Less than two minutes later, Erskine saw his sliding pass go through a surprised Price’s legs after Subban lifted Brooks Laich’s stick in front of the net.
Beagle scored on a set-up from Tom Wilson at 6:21 and Carlson added one on a long shot Price didn’t see.
The Capitals have won seven in a row at the Bell Centre since March, 2011 and are 9-1-1 in their last 11 visits.
Notes _ There was a standing ovation in a pre-game ceremony for Anthony Calvillo. The CFL’s all-time passing leader retired this week from the Montreal Alouettes. . . There was also a moment’s silence for victims of the Ile-Verte fire. . . Montreal defenceman Raphael Diaz was scratched for a fourth game. . . While Ovechkin returned, centre Mikhail Grabovski sat out with a lower body injury. . . Adam Oates coached his 100th Capitals game.