MONTREAL (AP) — The Montreal Canadiens called a team meeting after a loss to the San Jose Sharks extended their losing streak to five games.
Reporters were kept waiting for more than 15 minutes outside the dressing room as Canadiens players discussed the listless play of late that has left them well out of playoff position with half the season still to play.
“We didn’t have everyone on board and that’s frustrating,” captain Max Pacioretty said after Tuesday night’s 4-1 defeat. “All things considered, coming back from a road trip and where we are in the standings and knowing how many games we dropped and how many people are struggling, that’s upsetting.
“We have to find a way to compete harder and win more battles.”
Timo Meier had two goals, and Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for the Sharks (21-12-4), who were coming off a 6-0 setback Sunday in Dallas. San Jose has won four of five.
“We carried the puck with a lot of speed into the other end and I think we had them on their heels for most of the night,” said Sharks veteran Logan Couture.
Andrew Shaw scored for Montreal (16-20-4), which has just four goals in the last five games and now has to face the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
The Canadiens were starting a five-game homestand after a dismal 2-5-0 road trip.
They had some early chances against the Sharks, but seemed to sag when Thornton opened the scoring 12:57 into the game. By the third period, fans were booing the home side.
“Not good,” Pacioretty said. “We play with pride.
“The best part about playing in Montreal is the fans and the city and the passion for hockey, so when we take that out of the building through poor play and through not winning or being exciting and scoring goals and giving the fans a show, it’s upsetting. Especially when it’s your job to produce.”
Pacioretty, a steady 30-goal scorer in recent seasons, has only eight in 40 games and has not scored since Nov. 30, but he’s not the only Canadiens player struggling to find the net. Among others, Jonathan Drouin has only five goals, and none since Nov. 29.
Montreal coach Claude Julien said frustration has crept in.
“When that happens, the compete level isn’t where it should be,” he said. “We’re just not doing our jobs out there.
“We need to refocus and get back to being committed to doing the job in all areas.”
San Jose outshot Montreal 33-31.
The Canadiens wasted a string of early chances, and San Jose scored first. Justin Braun shot wide from the right point but Thornton stopped the puck and put it in from the side of the net at 12:57.
Vlasic finished a 2-on-1 with Mikkel Boedker at 11:27 of the second.
Montreal broke a drought of 132 minutes without a goal at 16:07, but it took a two-man advantage to do it. And the Canadiens didn’t even shoot the puck into the net, as Pacioretty’s pass to Shaw went off the center’s skate and past goalie Aaron Dell.
Meier was at the edge of the crease to finish a tic-tac-toe play with Chris Tierney and Kevin Labanc on a power play at 19:50. Meier got his second of the game and eighth of the season when he picked the top corner against Carey Price on an off-wing rush down the right side 1:13 into the third.
Dell made 30 saves and has won six straight starts.
NOTES: A moment of silence, along with a scoreboard video tribute, was observed before the game for former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Johnny Bower, who died last week at the age 93. ... In a sign of how impotent Montreal’s attack has been, minor league call-up Nicolas Deslauriers won the December edition of the Molson Cup, a team award based on three-star selections.
Sharks: Thursday night at Toronto.
Canadiens: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
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