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Fluke bounce symbolic of rough season for Petry, Canadiens

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It’s a textbook play, the kind you teach young defencemen to lean on as a safety valve of sorts.

With trouble stirring in front of your own net, get the puck and dump it into the corner.

The idea is to alleviate the pressure, win a board battle and transition the other way. It usually works.

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But on this night, with his Montreal Canadiens tied 2-2 in the third period of their first game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in 21 months, Jeff Petry pounced on a rebound in front of his own net, raised the puck towards the corner of the rink and ended up striking Bruins forward Charlie Coyle right in the visor.

It bounced off Canadiens goaltender Samuel Montembeault and went straight into Montreal’s net.

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It was such a fluke that NHL.com labelled it in its hyperlink as a go-ahead goal credited to Coyle instead of one he actually scored.

Great bounce for the hometown kid. Awful one for Petry and the Canadiens.

Symbolic, really.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.
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It seems as though since this season got underway, neither has been on the right side of any luck and both have struggled to a perplexing degree. Petry’s coming off the best season of his career, and the Canadiens are just months removed from their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since 1993, but all of that seems like such a distant memory right now.

Petry couldn’t have been any further removed from his past successes after that puck hit Coyle in the face and created the lead the Bruins built on to win 5-2. Ditto for the Canadiens.

This play wasn’t his fault, or theirs.

But 1-0 Canadiens became 1-1 when, instead of sending an outlet pass to Joel Armia for a routine breakout, Petry reversed into his own zone and then misfired the puck through the neutral zone and down to the Bruins end for icing.

Even if the Canadiens won the ensuing draw, they couldn’t get the puck deep into Boston’s end to get in a full line change and Charlie McAvoy scored his first of two goals in the game 20 seconds later from right in front of Petry.

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The Michigan native was in the penalty box after losing David Pastrnak and being forced into hauling him down in front of Montembeault when McAvoy responded to Michael Pezzetta’s first NHL goal by tying the game 2-2 in the third minute of the third period.

And that extremely unfortunate play on the deciding goal at 5:58 of the final frame turned a snowball into an avalanche for the man who’s supposed to be Montreal’s top defenceman. Same goes for his team.

Things started off on the wrong foot for the Canadiens, and for Petry in pre-season. It was just days after he signed a four-year, $25-million contract that just about any team in the league would’ve given him.

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Through the first few games of the season, appearing nothing like the player who scored 12 goals and topped 40 points (this time in just 55 games) for a third consecutive year, Petry stumbled. And a couple of weeks in, he admitted he was putting too much pressure on himself.

“There’s times where I just felt like I needed to step up to try to be something else,” the 33-year-old said when he was asked about trying to make up for Canadiens captain Shea Weber being too injured to continue his playing career.

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“For me, I think I don’t need to add any other pressure,” Petry added. “I need to play my game, the style that has worked for me in the past, and that’s skating and being assertive before everything else. Everything else comes with that. I have put extra pressure on myself and now it’s a matter of just focusing on my game and what I need to do to get back to the way I was playing last year and before that. I’m not the most vocal guy, so for me it’s more lead by example type. So, it’s hard when you’re expected to play a certain way and you’re not. I felt the pressure a little bit, and now it’s a matter of refocusing a little bit.”

He hasn’t been able to do it with any type of consistency.

Neither have the Canadiens, who fell to 4-11-2 with the loss in Boston.

Confidence is low, and frustration is well past the boiling point for them, and certainly for Petry, who is still searching for his first goal and is stuck on only two assists this season.

Before leaving for this road trip, which started in catastrophic fashion on a play he was involved in against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, he said he just needed to simplify his game, focus on the defensive side of things and let the offence come naturally from that.

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Petry’s trying hard, but the results just aren’t falling in his favour.

That’s exactly what’s happening with the Canadiens, too. They’ve put in a commendable effort in each of their last five games but have won only one of them.

It’s gotten to a point where even when they make the right play, it somehow ends with them fishing the puck out of their own net.





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