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Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price makes a save against Chicago Blackhawks' Jeremy Morin as Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec and Tom Gilbert look for the rebound during first period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Tuesday, November 4, 2014.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

This is how it goes when you're in the doldrums: a puck fortuitously comes to one of your exciting young forwards, who breaks in on a two-on-nothing rush with his even more exciting young linemate.

Then it bobbles and skitters off in an unexpected direction, not only is there no scoring chance, there isn't even a shot on net from the aforementioned youngsters.

It's a real-world example involving Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk, lifted from the first period of the Montreal Canadiens' messy 5-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks – a result that plainly felt like an abdication to head coach Michel Therrien.

Describing his team's effort after the Hawks made it 2-0 midway through the second period, "usually we show a lot of character, we didn't tonight."

Those words carry particular weight; 'character' is the standard unit of currency in hockey.

So is Therrien right to call out an 8-4-1 team in this fashion after three straight losses?

Sure, but his energy might be better expended trying to come up with tactical and motivational solutions.

Montreal has allowed the first goal in 11 of 13 games this season, and the last time they held a lead was more than 300 minutes ago – five full games.

The club's trademark transition game has also gone missing. Therrien alluded to their poor play in the neutral zone – where the lack of support and crisp passing is most evident – and players talked about how they are finding themselves isolated and in a reactive position both on the fore-check and with the puck.

Special teams are also a problem.

On Tuesday the Habs were 0-for-4 on the power play – which is a dismal 26th in the league – and this has at least something to do with coaching.

On the plus side, at least they drew a bunch of calls, having entered the game with the fourth-fewest number of power-play opportunities

Therrien was miffed after Sunday's loss to the Calgary Flames, and though he insisted ahead of the Chicago game that "there's no panic in this room" there is growing exasperation.

It's been plain for 10 days or so that the Canadiens were taking points from games where they were badly outplayed, perhaps this is the occasion Therrien has been looking for to crack the whip.

Lineup changes should be expected, as should new line combinations – Dale Weise's stint alongside David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty appeared to end in the third period on Tuesday – if the Habs are to shake their current lethargy.

They might look to the Hawks for guidance on that score.

As usual, the news on Tuesday wasn't all bad – the Habs dominated play for the first half of the game; had an early chance or two gone in, who knows what would have happened – and one is tempted to describe the difference in post-game tone between coach and players as a disconnect.

"It happens. It's not the first time, it's going to happen again," said centre Tomas Plekanec, one of the club's alternate captains.

"The past couple of games haven't been our best . . . but that's okay, it's all part of learning. There's a lot of hockey left to be played this season, what we have to do is figure out (how) we're going to get ourselves out of these situations. It's going to happen again this season," said P.K. Subban, who also wears an 'A'.

Subban, the team's highest-paid player, wasn't great this night and offered himself up for a spot of self-flagellation after the game ("personally I don't think I've been nearly as good as I need to be").

But his demeanour was calm.

"We've got to relax, stop gripping the sticks so tight and move the puck, do what's brought us success in the past . . . we're thinking too much, we've just got to play. I feel good because I know we can play a lot better than that," he said when asked about the power play struggles.

Above all else, the Habs' problem is they haven't been able to score enough goals to win.

Desharnais's form has dipped noticeably – he missed a wide-open net just before the star-crossed 2-on-0 – which has a ripple effect throughout the forward corps; the club's recent third line combo of Rene Bourque, Lars Eller and P.A. Parenteau has been a disaster (Parenteau should have opened the scoring on the power play early in the game, but misfired) and the fourth line has contributed one point this season (the Hawks' fourth unit, which is admittedly of higher quality, scored two goals on Tuesday).

"Maybe we take a page out of their book . . . I can remember every time I was on the ice there was a guy in front of the net. Did they get some lucky bounces? Yeah, they did, but you've got to be there to get those bounces. One goes off a skate, one goes off a shoulder and goes in, they're playing playoff hockey out there, that's what good teams do," Subban said.

It might help if the club were to also imitate Chicago by burying its power-play chances – Jonathan Toews opened the scoring in the first 1:01 after Alexei Emelin was sent to the box for hooking.

The plus side for the Habs on Tuesday is that they managed to draw as many penalties as they took, including forcing one in the opening minute.

But this is a team whose ticket is evidently marked when it comes to the officials; the Habs were twice called for embellishment on Tuesday, and Subban, who leads the league in minor penalties, picked up a ticky-tack holding call to negate a power play in the second.

"I don't know," Plekanec said when the subject of embellishment was broached. "Honestly, I don't know how the rule exactly is. I don't know."

On balance the Habs have bigger fish to fry.

But it's the sort of thing that might lead a team to think the fates are conspiring against it.