NHL shootouts are fun, but opinions divided on format's fairness

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Considering that every point is important and can make the difference between a playoff appearance and a long summer, do shootouts — a contest of skill — still have a place in the NHL?

Canadiens players were bitter after falling in a 12-round shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.

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“Yes, it was exciting. There were a lot of rounds, a lot of guys got to shoot. But we wanted to get an extra point, so the result hurts,” forward Sean Monahan said.

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Kris Letang matched Nick Suzuki in the first round. Sidney Crosby also scored immediately after Cole Caufield in the second round. Monahan was the third Canadiens player to score in the seventh round. Lars Eller prolonged the game by also tickling the twine.

Jansen Harkins, a bit player with no points after 13 games this season, finally played hero for the Penguins in the 12th round. He scored after a failed attempt by Josh Anderson.

It was the longest shootout in the history of both teams. The NHL record remains a 20-round session between the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals on Dec. 16, 2014.

“The Bell Centre was noisy, and even though we lost, it remains a memorable moment,” goaltender Sam Montembeault said. “We worked hard in the third period to force overtime. We lacked a bit of execution on our power play in overtime. After that, things can go either way in the shootout.”

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A few more minutes of three-on-three overtime could probably be enough to end most games. And overtime with all the open ice is generally more popular with players and coaches than the shootout.

Canadien head coach Martin St-Louis said it was a bit like letting luck decide the winner.

“It’s frustrating, but it’s part of our sport,” defenceman Kaiden Guhle said. “Monty made several saves. It was up to us to score.”

Nevertheless, Guhle admitted Wednesday’s experience had been unique.

“It was still pretty stressful. ‘Roby’ (defence coach Stéphane Robidas) told us after 10 or 11 rounds to get ready because our turn might come,” he said. “It would have been special to get my chance. I’m certainly not a shootout specialist! But it would have been a special experience to try my luck.”

Emotions were different in the Penguins camp.

“It’s always fun when it starts going long,” Penguins defenceman Erik Karlsson said. The guys on the bench panic a little and hope someone scores before they get sent off. On the other hand, this could be the opportunity of a lifetime for some players, like ‘Harks’ (Harkins).

“It’s a great moment for him and for the team,” he added.

It’s a safe bet, though, that the game is more likely to end up in the Penguins’ souvenir box than the Habs’.

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