OTTAWA — The experience was a memorable one for the Montreal Canadiens even if the outcome was lousy.
The Canadiens fell 3-0 to the Senators on Saturday in the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game at TD Place in Ottawa. More than 33,000 fans took in the game and the festive atmosphere was evident.
"I had a lot of fun out there. The experience was a lot of fun," said Carey Price, who made 35 saves as the Canadiens were outshot 38-28.
"The whole experience of being outdoors was special for the fans and I think it's good for the game."
Outdoor events may be good for hockey, but the game was quite simply awful for the Canadiens. They had just 16 shots through the first two periods and only made a push late in the third period when they were almost out of time.
Jean Gabriel Pageau gave the Senators a 1-0 lead in the second period and Bobby Ryan increased that lead to 2-0 with less than three minutes to play in the third. Nate Thompson iced the game with an empty netter.
"When you spend the night chasing after the puck instead of controlling it on your stick it makes a big difference. We chased the puck all night, we didn't create many scoring chances and in a game like this you have to have a blue-collar attitude and we didn't. They had a better one than we did," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said.
"With Carey Price being Carey Price, he gave us a chance after two periods to still be in the game."
When Price returned from injury three weeks ago the Canadiens immediately won five straight, including a 10-1 trouncing of the Detroit Red Wings. Since then they have just one win in five games and have just nine goals over that time.
"We know we can give more and we're a better team than we showed," forward Paul Byron said.
"It felt like we couldn't get any bounces our way or make good passes. I had a real hard time and I know I can be better. We didn't generate too many chances and that's why we didn't score. Maybe after that Detroit game we thought we were better than we are."
The Canadiens had a chance to move to within a point of a playoff spot but instead find themselves three back in the Atlantic Division and just three up on the Senators with the Christmas break looming.
"We know where we were in the standings and it doesn't matter about the hype and outside noise, we didn't play a strong game," was captain Max Pacioretty response to the circumstances surrounding the game.
"I evaluated our game poorly. We had some opportunities in the third but it's too late when our backs are against the wall. It's definitely frustrating but we've got to look for answers. We have to work harder for our chances to come and we created absolutely nothing until we thought we needed to."
Byron, who is from Ottawa, enjoyed the time with friends and family and taking his kids on the ice Friday, but the end result trumped all that.
"Every loss is a bad feeling. I wanted to win this game pretty bad and I'm obviously disappointed about the result. Just because it's in my hometown doesn't make it personal. It's a big loss for the team and a big loss for our playoff push," he said.
"It's frustrating because we know we're better than the results at the start of the year and the results of the last five games."
They have a chance to try and turn things around when they continue their seven-game road trip Monday in Vancouver.
Darren Desaulniers, The Canadian Press