MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens are really feeling the Stanley Cup final hangover.
A 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night dropped Montreal — who played in the 2020-21 Stanley Cup final only three months ago — to an 0-4-0 record.
It's the Habs' worst start since the 1995-96 season, when the team kicked off the campaign with five straight losses.
“It’s a trap when you get this close and you have to start again quickly,” said Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme. “There is a mental aspect to this and right now we’re not dealing with it well. But you need to turn the page, put on your working boots and work the right way.
“You can’t just work, you need to work the right way. Right now, we’re disconnected with and without the puck.”
The Sharks were already up 3-0 on Montreal at the end of the first period Tuesday, thanks to two goals from Swedish rookie Jonathan Dahlen and a late marker from Erik Karlsson. At the other end of the ice, Montreal registered only three shots in the first 20 minutes of play.
“I can’t explain it,” said defenceman Jeff Petry. “We knew that they were going to come and be all over the puck and (there was) no support. We made it easy. They had no problem breaking out the puck, skating through the neutral zone and that’s it.
“It’s frustrating, we’re four games into the year and half of our games have been no effort.”
With a mountain to climb in the second period, the Canadiens conceded yet again. On the power play, Timo Meier accepted Logan Couture’s pass and beat Montreal's Jake Allen to put San Jose up 4-0 at 3:09.
It was a tough night for the Habs netminder, who stopped 20-of-25 shots.
The Sharks added salt to Montreal's wound 14:31 into the third period when Kevin Labanc scored San Jose's fifth of the night.
San Jose goalie Adin Hill recorded 21 saves to collect his first shutout of the season.
“We have to dumb our game down, play a simple game, until we start getting that feeling back,” Petry said. “We have to play a simple game, a hard-working game. That’s what gave us success in the past and that’s what we need to go to.”
The Canadiens played out the final minutes under a flurry of boos from the 16,095 fans in attendance at the Bell Centre.
For Brendan Gallagher, a losing streak is hard to kick no matter when it happens during the season.
“Any time you go into these losing skids, it might be escalated in a market like Montreal where you need to focus on it wherever you go, it’s hard to get out of these things,” Gallagher said. “It’s on your mind all the time, it’s all you think about, it’s all you worry about. At times you try to do a little bit too much.”
With the win, the Sharks recorded a 10th straight victory against the Canadiens.
Dahlen scored his first and second NHL goals in just his second game.
He opened the scoring just 1:22 into the first period, working with Meir to redirect Brent Burns' shot from the blue line in behind Allen. The rookie added his second on a counterattack just over a minute later. Couture found the Swede on a two-on-one and doubled the Sharks’ lead.
“It feels pretty unrealistic right now so maybe I need some time to let it sink in,” Dahlen said of the performance. “I felt that it hit my stick but I wasn’t sure and everything went so quick. Then the second one just pops on my stick and I shoot. It was a pretty unreal three minutes.”
After the game, Dahlen called his father to share the good news.
“My phone plan didn’t have Canada so I had to find some Wi-Fi” Dahlen said. “I’ve been calling him after almost every game since I was 10 so I gave him a call after this one too and it was pretty fun.”
Meier and Karlsson each recorded a goal and two assists on the night.
Sharks head coach Bob Boughner is confident in the chemistry between Dahlen, Meier and Couture.
“We’ve kept them together for the most part and I think it’s a combination. Dahlen is a real smart player, he’s a big compliment to that line,” Boughner said. “And I think Timo found a different gear, he looked like a man among boys tonight.”
Dahlen said he's enjoying playing with his linemates.
“(Meier) is a great player. He has a good pass, a good shot and I really enjoy playing with him,” he said. “I think he’s had a great start and so has (Couture). He’s also an amazing player and it’s fun being out there with those two.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2021.
Tristan D'Amours, The Canadian Press