Canadiens lose 3-2 to Sharks — the worst team in NHL — on home ice

“By no means we take them lightly,” Brendan Gallagher says as Habs reach the midway point of season with a 17-18-6 record.

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The San Jose Sharks looked like the perfect team for the Canadiens to play so they could finish the first half of their 82-game schedule on a high note.

The Sharks are the worst team in the NHL and they came into Thursday night’s game at the Bell Centre on a 12-game losing streak — all in regulation time — while being outscored 54-17 during that span. The Sharks, who had an 11-game winless streak to start the season (0-10-1), also had the league’s worst goal differential at minus-90 coming into the Bell Centre.

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The Sharks improved that differential to minus-89 with a 3-2 victory over the Canadiens and also improved their record to 10-29-3.

Luke Kunin, Fabian Zetterlund and Nikita Okhotiuk scored for the Sharks.

Mike Matheson and Josh Anderson scored for the Canadiens, who saw their record fall to 17-18-6 and they are 8-11-2 at home.

The Canadiens are five points ahead of their pace last season, when they reached the midway point with a 16-22-3 record.

The Sharks are still the worst team in the NHL, three points behind the Chicago Blackhawks (12-28-2), who lost 2-1 to the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night. The Blackhawks have the second-worst goal differential in the league at minus-59 — 30 goals better than the Sharks.

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On this night, the Sharks were much better than the Canadiens, handing them their second defeat in two nights after losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Flyers Wednesday in Philadelphia.

When Gallagher was asked after the game if the Canadiens should feel embarrassed about losing to the worst team in the league on home ice, he said: “It’s too good of a league to feel that. Hopefully no one feels that. I’ve played in this league long enough … it will humble you real quick. There’s good players on every team and every team’s going to come and compete and be ready to play. By no means we take them lightly. I think the last couple of nights here our game has slipped a little bit, but it’s important to get it back on track.”

The Canadiens looked like the worst team in the NHL in the second period when they were outshot 17-9.

“Every team in the league is good,” Montembeault said. “They all got good players. They were on a losing streak, but you got to give them credit. They played well, especially in the second. I think they were working harder than we were. We tried to push at the end in the third, but it was a little too late.”

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Things got off to a bad start for the Canadiens five minutes into the game when Jayden Struble went to make a backhand pass behind his net to defence partner Jordan Harris. Instead the puck went directly in front of the net to Kunin, who was able to beat a surprised Montembeault.

Zetterlund put the Sharks up 2-0 at 17:25 of the first period after he was left alone in front of Montembeault on a defensive breakdown. Only 21 seconds later, Gallagher got the Canadiens on the board with his seventh goal of the season and his second in three games after a beautiful setup from Matheson, who picked up his 200th career point.

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It looked like that goal would give the Canadiens a boost going into the second period, but instead they came out totally flat and were trailing 3-1 after Okhotiuk scored on another defensive breakdown at 16:44, allowed to sneak in alone from the blue line for a pass without any Canadiens even noticing him.

The Sharks were able to protect that lead until Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis pulled Montembeault for an extra attacker and Anderson deflected a point shot by Matheson to beat Sharks goalie Mackenzie Blackwood for his seventh goal of the season with 3:34 left on the clock. The Canadiens kept pushing after that with Montembeault back on the bench, but they couldn’t beat Blackwood again despite outshooting the Sharks 15-11 in the third period.

Blackwood came into the game with a 4-16-2 record, a 3.87 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage. He stopped 33 of the Canadiens’ 35 shots for a .943 save percentage, highlighting Montreal’s problems scoring goals — especially the forwards.

Captain Nick Suzuki leads the Canadiens with 13 goals, which is tied for 73rd in the NHL. Cole Caufield had a team-leading seven shots for the Canadiens, including six in the third period, but couldn’t beat Blackwood and remains stuck on 11 goals, which is tied for 104th in the NHL.

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Matheson logged a team-high 26:56 of ice time with two assists and six shots. He ranks second on the Canadiens in scoring with 6-23-29 totals, five points behind Suzuki (12-22-34).

Matheson said he doesn’t pay attention to the standings because it’s important to have the same motivation going into every game.

“I don’t feel like I ever go into a game feeling like, Oh, I can bring a B game tonight and be fine, or anything like that,” he said. “My personal motivation comes from within and I try to bring my A effort every night, no matter who we’re playing.”

Not enough Canadiens did that against the Sharks.

They should feel embarrassed.

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