The Montreal Canadiens were in need of a pick-me-up to soothe the frayed nerves of fan base dismayed by their terrible start, so a new pre-game video montage made its debut, as did Quebec chanteuse Ima, who replaced the usual anthem singer.
The Habs’ creative department will evidently have to try harder.
The team that seemingly can’t lose erased three Montreal leads to send the team that can’t win down to its fifth consecutive defeat and sixth in seven games to open the season.
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski, the former Hab, shovelled the overtime winner past Carey Price, giving the Leafs a 5-4 victory, after making a swanky move to bring the puck out from behind the net that confounded Montreal defenceman Hal Gill.
“It’s a little bit special,” conceded a beaming Grabovski, whose family made the trek from Toronto, “I know a lot of people in Montreal, I have a lot of friends here.”
Asked if he could hear the booing when he touched the puck, Grabovski laughed that “no, I just hear when (former Hab Mike) Komisarek touches the puck.”
After Grabovski’s goal the Toronto bench poured onto the ice as if it were a playoff game, and in some sense it was a momentous occasion - the Habs are now officially off to the worst start in more than 70 years.
And with Winnipeg’s 5-3 defeat of Carolina, are the new occupants of the Eastern Conference basement.
The main talking point in Montreal is the Habs’ lengthening skid, but the Leafs also have concerns to deal with after his game.
Namely, the health of Leafs netminder James Reimer, the man on whom so much depends.
Reimer appeared shaken up after Montreal captain Brian Gionta clipped him in the head as he cut across the front of the crease.
He took off his mask and kneeled for a few seconds, but carried on to finish the period despite suffering another hard bump on Montreal’s opening goal.
But the Leafs’ number one netminder couldn’t come out for the second, and did not return to the Toronto bench.
Toronto coach Ron Wilson said after the game that Reimer was suffering from whiplash-like symptoms and that “he could have finished the game” but the decision was made to withdraw him in favour of Jonas Gustavsson as a precaution.
He will be re-evaluated on Sunday.
“I hope he’s okay,” said winger Clarke MacArthur, “he’s a big part of our team.”
So could a team that made the conference finals two short years ago and came within a goal of upsetting the Stanley Cup champs last year suddenly be an entrant in the Nail Yakupov sweepstakes?
Doubtful, and the Habs are relentlessly focused on the positives.
“There’s a lot of games left. We’ll get better,” said centre Lars Eller, Montreal’s most dangerous player on the night.
Winger Michael Cammalleri, who scored in the third period, said “I thought we executed better, we had a lot of tape-to-tape passes, we were crisper . . . we only need to be a little bit better and I think we’ll be successful.”
And goaltender Carey Price, who has offered some spotty performances, kept his team in the game in the third period - making two outrageous saves, including one where he reached back with his paddle to stifle a goal-bound shot.
If it’s possible to give up five goals and still play well, Price did that.
The overtime point may take some of the pressure off coach Jacques Martin, but this is plainly a beleaguered team that is in considerable disarray.
How else to explain three blown leads and a pair of too-many-men penalties, including one on the power-play?
The Habs have a lot to talk about.
Martin said he liked the way his team battled on the night - despite surrendering seven power-plays to Toronto, which yielded a pair of goals - and that the inability to protect a third-period lead may be a by-product of an injury-riddled blue line.
“We three young D who don’t have a lot of experience in the National Hockey League,” he said.Report Typo/Error