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Spirited Canadiens’ comeback effort falls short in 5-4 loss to Ducks


After falling behind 3-0 and 5-2, Montreal scores twice in the third period before an empty Bell Centre but can’t quite find the equalizer.

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A return to home ice failed to be the cure for the Canadiens’ ills as they dropped a 5-4 decision to the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night.

Laurent Dauphin scored on a penalty shot with 5:58 remaining in the third period to cut the Ducks’ lead to one, but that was as close as the Canadiens could come in their first home game since Dec. 16.

Cayden Primeau took another step back in his development. He gave up three goals on nine shots in the first period and was replaced by Sam Montembeault to start the second period. It was the second straight time Primeau has been pulled and he has failed to finish four of the seven games he has started this season.

The Canadiens came out strong against a team that dropped a tough overtime decision to the Maple Leafs Wednesday night in Toronto and outshot the Ducks 16-9 in the first period.

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But Anaheim backup goaltender Anthony Stolarz looked like an all-star as he kept the Canadiens off the scoresheet, while the Ducks made the most of their opportunities.

Primeau was backing into his crease when Sam Carrick scored at 8:14. Part of the blame on this goal goes to Alexander Romanov, who allowed the Anaheim forward to go around him, but it was a shot Primeau should have stopped.

The Ducks took control of the game when they scored twice during a double-minor penalty to Dauphin for high-sticking Ryan Getzlaf.

There were 10 seconds remaining in the first penalty when Cam Fowler scored on a shot from the blue line. This was the one goal where Primeau might have been given a pass, because there was traffic in front and Jakob Silfverberg provided a screen in front. Troy Terry scored on the back end of the double penalty for his 24th of the season. Once again, Primeau didn’t challenge the shooter, again opting to drop back into his crease.

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The Canadiens’ offence came to life in the second period, but on each occasion, the Ducks had an answer.

Jake Evans took the puck to the net with a strong effort to get Montreal on the board early in the second period, but Trevor Zegras scored 10 seconds later. Zegras showed why he is a candidate for rookie of the year honours when he beat Montembeault with the so-called Michigan move, coming around the net, lifting the puck on his stick and flipping it under Montembeault’s blocker.

Artturi Lehkonen scored a power-play goal midway through the period, but Zegras restored the three-goal lead when he worked a give-and-go with Terry and connected on a shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle for his 12th goal.

Evans brought the Canadiens closer when he eluded defenceman Hampus Lindholm and beat Stolarz in close for his sixth of the season. It’s only the 13th time in 42 games that the Canadiens have scored more than two goals.

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This was the start of an eight-game homestand for the Canadiens, who will play back-to-back games this weekend against the Edmonton Oilers Saturday and the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday. Both of those games will be played without fans in the Bell Centre. The Canadiens are hoping restrictions will ease when they return after the All-Star Game to play the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 8.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

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