Habs hope loss to Boston was rock bottom and not a sign of more to come

There are losses, and then there are losses like the Montreal Canadiens suffered on home ice on Tuesday night. 

"Confidence takes a hit," captain Shea Weber said after the Habs went down by a score of 8-1 to Boston on home ice. "When things are tough, you find out a lot about each other and we're gonna find it out here."

Tuesday's defeat was historically lopsided — the Habs had not given up eight goals on home ice since an 8-2 loss to Carolina in 2006, and only twice before had the Habs lost by a seven-goal margin since the Bell Centre opened in 1996. 

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To find a worse loss on home ice you have to go all the way back to 1995 when the Habs were routed 11-1 by the Red Wings. Fans remember that loss as the one that ended the Patrick Roy era in Montreal. 

So it's no wonder that Tuesday's loss is in the category that makes a fan base question everything and is a direct hit to the player's pride. The two teams will meet again in Boston on Sunday.

"This is a team and a city that takes a lot of pride in having a good team," said defenceman Ben Chiarot following practice on Wednesday. "It hurts and you think about it for a long time after the game. It's a good thing we got them coming up here shortly."

WATCH | Pastrnak feasts on Habs in 8-1 Bruins win:

Adding to the difficult situation is this loss doesn't feel like a one-off. It was the fifth loss in the row for Montreal and came on the heels of a game where they had a 4-0 lead over the New York Rangers only to lose 6-5. 

"You have two choices right now," winger Brendan Gallagher said after the game. "You can continue to fight. You continue to battle as a group. Or you can choose to shy away from a little bit of adversity and that's the opportunity that we have right now." 

Carey Price was among the first players on the ice at practice Wednesday morning, getting in some extra work with goaltending coach Stephaine Waite.

Price symbolically led the team stretch at practice. Tuesday's loss was the first time he was pulled from a game in 112 starts. It's clear he needs to be better and he knows it.

"I've been in this game long enough to know that you can fight your way out of a scenario like this one," Price said. 

"[Tuesday] the chances were even; they scored eight, we scored one," said head coach Claude Julien, but he's not lumping the loss all on Price. "The quality chances that we're giving, it's more about where we're caught out of position, totally caught out of position."

Price's teammates also came to the defence of their goaltender, who had to endure some sarcastic cheers from the home crowd before he was pulled out of the game after giving up five goals on only 11 shots. 

Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press
Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press

"(Fans) have to realize he's one of the best. In moments or tight games he's the one guy that we can rely on for sure," said the team's current scoring leader Tomas Tatar. "Sometimes the nights are not going your way and we didn't help him, but at the end of the day in every close game Carey always makes big saves for us and he's our leader."

The Habs have solid core of veteran players in their locker room, but they're also leaning on a group of young players to perform. Some are struggling, such as centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who after a promising rookie campaign has only three points in 17 games this season. 

"I don't think that it's a matter of compete level," veteran forward Nate Thompson said. "You see every elite team go through growing pains. Every good hockey team throughout the season goes through some adversity and we're getting dealt adversity now. It's just how we respond to it now." 

For his part, Julien believes he has what he needs in the locker room to be successful. He points to the first 20 games of the season as evidence that his team can compete with the best in the NHL. And he believes that if the players are willing to put the work in they can fix the defensive issues which have dragged them into this current skid.

In the tight Atlantic Division there isn't much room for prolonged slumps if the Canadiens hope to make the playoffs. They're on the same pace they were last season when they earned 96 points and missed the post-season.

For fans, Tuesday's loss might feel like a death blow to the Habs hopes this season. But there is still plenty of road in front of them and it's clear that the belief among the players isn't wavering. 

They'll be back on the Bell Centre ice Thursday to take on the Devils as they try to right the ship. 

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