Tuesday night was not a tough job.
Carolina goalie Curtis McElhinney stopped 48 of 49 shots to earn the honour as the Hurricanes beat the Canadiens 2-1. Victor Rask and Trevor van Riemsdyk beat Canadiens goalie Carey Price on deflections, while Phillip Danault was the only Canadien to put a puck past McElhinney. Price stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced.
Hurricanes defenceman Justin Faulk was named second star despite being pointless and minus-1 and Danault was the third star.
"He made some saves," the Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher said after the game about McElhinney. "But that's kind of the easy way out. I think we got to make it tougher on him. You got to outwork the goalie, too. He's no different than any other player. You got to find a way to outwork him. There's always a way to get pucks by him and I think that's an area that we could probably look at tonight and get better at. "
The Canadiens saw their record fall 11-9-5 with the loss and they are now winless in their last five games (0-3-2). The Canadiens also fell out of a playoff position, with the Hurricanes improving their record to 12-9-3 to move into the second and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens and Hurricanes both have 27 points, but Carolina has played one less game and has one win.
"It's tough," Gallagher said about the losing streak. "That was one of the things we were pretty good at early on in the year was once we lost we bounced back with a win. And it's not like our game has slipped tremendously. The longer you go in the season, the harder these games are to win. I think that's where we can probably dig in a bit more as a group, understand it's going to get more and more difficult and that's got to up our game a bit and up .
"Points every night are so important," Gallagher added. "You look around the league, I think pretty much everyone still feels they have a shot to make the playoffs. We're going to play our desperation level to end this little skid that we are on. "
The Canadiens' Nicolas Deslauriers and Jonathan Drouin both missed empty-on two minutes left with goalie Carey Price pulled for an extra attacker. Gallagher said the Canadiens fed off the Bell Center crowd after Danault's goal at 9:29 of the third period cut the Hurricanes' lead in half.
"Definitely," Gallagher said. "That's something we always talk about. A couple of games here in a row, you just need to get that first one and the crowd gets into it and that plays an impact for us. "
Unfortunately for the Canadiens, they could not get a second shot past McElhinney.
Man Mountain returns
Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber played his first game almost a year after recovering from foot and knee surgeries, but you never knew he was gone that long by watching him.
Weber logged a game-high 25:19 of ice time, picked up an assist and was plus 1 with three shots on goal and one hit.
Weber received a nice ovation from the Bell Center fans when he got on the ice for his first shift early in the first period.
"That was special," Weber said. "Obviously, I was nervous before the game and anxious to get my first shift out of the way so definitely helped."
Said Gallagher about Weber: "I think you noticed him all over the ice. It's the amount of time we spent in our own zone was definitely less. His presence in front of our net was seen as well. I think his shot … he got off at least five or six pretty good one-timers tonight. You give him that many opportunities, eventually they are going to start going in. I think just every aspect of the game and then, obviously, he's the leader of our group, so it was nice to have him back. "
It was Weber's first game from the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game last Dec. 16 in Ottawa and also his first game as "C" as captain.
"Weby's just a really strong, heady player," said David Schlemko, who logged 20:53 of ice time as Weber's defence partner. "He always seems to be in the right position. He likes to talk, so it makes it easier going back for your zone. Obviously, with his shot he's a threat in the zone and every time I get the puck I'm looking to see if he's open to let that slapper go. "
Price goes back to white pads
Price went back to the white pads after 2-4-2 while wearing red ones.
"I was just trying something new and I liked it so I went back to white," said said after the game. "I'll probably go back to red after this."
When he hit the night when he flattened the Hurricanes' Warren Foegele behind the second period.
"It's just kind of got jammed up in the boards," Price said. "It wound up in my feet and in his feet, so I just hit him. I do not think I hit him very hard, but he must have had the balance or something. "
Price now has a 7-7-4 record with a 3.11 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage.
Power play struggles again
The Canadiens were hoping Weber would give them a boost on their power play, which was ranked 30th in the NHL heading into the game, but they went for 0-for-3 against the Hurricanes.
"I think Shea Weber is a pretty big weapon for any power play," coach Claude Julien said after Tuesday's skate. "I think other teams recognize that. Maybe that opens up some stuff that we did not have as open as before. If not, then he's definitely a guy that can really shoot the puck and have been on good play forever. At the same time, I think we all need to simplify our plays. It's about moving the puck quick, it's about making easy plays. Every once in a while I'm looking for a fancy or fortune play, which often gets us in trouble. So it's about simplifying certain things and being a little bit more effective. "
Said Weber after the game about the power play: "We just got to get on the same page. We're working on it. We're working before practice, during practice. So I think we're going to get it figured out. But as of right now it's not just like it should be. "
Quote of the Day
Rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi was asked after the skate what it's like to stand in front of the net when the Weber is winding up at the point for a slapshot.
"I almost peed in my pants," Kotkaniemi said. "That's pretty scary. You guys must try that. "
Relief for Petry
Weber's return cut down on the workload Jeff Petry had while filling the No. 1 defenceman role in the captain's absence.
Heading into Tuesday night's game, Petry was leading the Canadiens in ice time with an average of 24:57 per game.
"I enjoyed it .. I liked playing the heavy minutes," Petry said after the skate about replacing Weber. "But I think having him back and lightening the load a little bit will benefit my game.
"I think everybody did a good job stepping up and knowing that he was going to be out to start the year, that we all needed to be good and pick up the slack with his absence," Petry added. "It called on other guys to step up.
"I think it's good for our whole team," Petry said about having Weber back. "I think he's a guy that brings leadership and he brings just a presence on the ice that I think will be beneficial for us."
After the game, Julien had praise for Petry, who logged 22:53 of ice time against the hurricanes and had five shots on goal, along with three hits, while paired with Brett Kulak.
"Jeff was a good soldier for us on that first pair," Julien said. "You can say 1A, 1B (with Weber). It's good to have those two guys on the right side that stabilizes the second pair, no doubt. Because Petey becomes a real strong second right as far as I'm concerned. "
Domi held off scoresheet again
Domi was held off the scoresheet for the third straight game against the Hurricanes.
Domi has only held off the scoring six times in 25 games this season and leads the Canadiens in scoring with 11-15-26 totals. Before this mini-slump, Domi had a 11-game point streak.
Hudon sets the team record for hits
Charles Hudon set a Canadiens record when he recorded 13 hits in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at the Bell Center, but he had only two against the Hurricanes.
Hudon's performance against the Bruins marked only the 26th time an NHL player had 13 hits in a single game since the league began to keep track of the statistics during the 1997-98 season.
The previous Canadiens record was 11 hits, shared by Nicolas Deslauriers, Mike Komisarek and Chad Kilger. The NHL record of 17 hits is shared by Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Gary Roberts.
The Canadiens will have the day off Wednesday, followed by practices on Thursday and Friday scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard to prepare for back-to-back weekend games at the Bell Center against the New York Rangers on Saturday (7 pm, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio) and the San Jose Sharks on Sunday (7 pm, SN1, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).