“Theo humiliated” screamed the front page of Le Journal de Montreal on Sunday, over a picture of a puck heading into his net.
“Canadiens romp at Theodore’s expense,” said a Montreal paper. “Canadiens Blitz Theo,” added another Montreal paper.
The former Canadiens star allowed a career-high eight goals on Saturday night and lost to the goaltender he was traded for last March, David Aebischer, as Montreal downed the Avalanche 8-5 before 21,273 jeering fans at the Bell Centre.
Theodore would have been already winging home to Denver when the newspapers appeared, as the Avs have to get set to play host to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
The Avalanche and their $US5.5 million goaltender will want to leave this match as far behind them as possible.
The Canadiens erased an early Colorado 3-0 lead and trailed 4-3 going into the third period when they pumped five goals past Theodore. Montreal went four-for-eight on the power play, while holding Colorado to one-for-seven.
“Power plays put them back into the game, so it wasn’t the goalie’s fault,” Avs coach Joel Quenneville said.
But while the Avalanche players blamed their own loose play for the defeat, it was not a good night for Theodore.
Coming off a 26-save effort in a 2-1 win in Ottawa on Thursday night, his early season struggles resumed with only 28 saves on 36 shots in Montreal.
As each goal went in, the crowd derisively chanted “Theo! Theo!”
He said later it was “hard to keep your focus and hard to just go out and concentrate on your job, But with the way the game was played, with a lot of power plays and five-on-threes, it was a high-scoring game for both teams.”
Theodore’s first game in Montreal since the trade was an event for both goaltenders, although it paled in comparison to Patrick Roy’s return in March 1997 after the Canadiens traded the sport’s best goalie at the time to Colorado.
But there was still blanket media coverage and it was clearly a big game for both Theodore and Aebischer.
After the game, a relieved Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau was happy not to have to deal with the media fallout if his team had lost.
“We won, it’s over,” he said.
Theodore was the darling of the Bell Centre crowd for most of eight years before his play slipped last season just as newcomer Cristobal Huet was racking up wins for the Canadiens.
Between his spotty play and a list of off-ice distractions, general manager Bob Gainey felt fortunate to find a team to take the $16 million and three-year remaining on Theodore’s contract in return for Aebischer, Colorado’s starter.
Theodore helped the Avs overcome Dallas in the first round of playoffs last spring, but he has only flirted with top form this season.
He now has a 2-3-1 record with a steep 3.68 goals-against average and a .877 save percentage. His back-up, Peter Budaj, is 1-0-1 with a 1.98 GAA and a .934 save percentage.
Meanwhile, Aebischer is challenging Huet for the top job in Montreal. Even after allowing five goals, the Swiss goaltender is 3-1-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.
“There was a lot of emotion in the building and it gets to you, too,” Aebischer said after the game. “It was fun and a little strange to play against guys you know pretty well.
“It was just a good win.”
It was also the first game back for former Canadien Patrice Brisebois, who had two assists despite being booed throughout the game, as the risk-taking defenceman often was when he played for Montreal.
“I told myself to take the boos as a compliment,” Brisebois said. “And on the whole, the fans were polite and respectful.”
Sheldon Souray had two goals and two assists and his nine points in seven games gives him a share of the team scoring lead with captain Saku Koivu, who had three assists. Souray has five goals this season, all on the power play.
Sergei Samsonov also scored while the third-period barrage came from Michael Ryder, Craig Rivet, Chris Higgins, Alex Kovalev and Mike Johnson. Andrei Markov also had three assists.
Andrew Brunette scored twice while Joe Sakic, Tyler Arnason and Paul Stastny, with his first NHL goal, replied for Colorado.
The Canadiens face another test Monday night when they play host to the 8-0-0 Buffalo Sabres.