Both were in the top-three of their divisions, and the Canadiens were eight points up on the ninth-place team in the East.
Just a little more than three weeks later and things are looking bleak in both cities. Friday night did not help either situation.
The Canadiens were 4-1 losers in Detroit, while the Capitals offense continued to fire blanks and lost another top forward when Mikhail Grabovski had to exit in the first period after awkwardly twisting his leg. Looking at the standings after Friday and the Capitals are down to 13th place in the East while the Canadiens are now tied with Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division and have just a five-point cushion over the No. 9 team in the conference.
Those are two ships going in the wrong direction.
Elsewhere on Friday, Eric Nystrom's four-goal effort was not enough for Nashville as it fell to Calgary in a shootout, 5-4, while the Phoenix Coyotes had to hold off a late Edmonton rally to escape with a 4-3 win over the Oilers.
The Panthers lost, but at least their young fans could ride on a poorly planned slide outside of the arena.
All the NHL Scores
Devils 2, Capitals 1
Red Wings 4, Canadiens 1
Avalanche 3, Panthers 2
Coyotes 4, Oilers 3
On Friday we asked you five burning questions about the days games. These are your cool, soothing answers.
1. Can the Caps end their slide and regaining some footing in the division?
Nope, and it was another dismal night for the offense as the Capitals fall to 0-5-2 in their past seven games. When Alex Ovechkin isn't in the lineup this team really looks bad.
2. Can Jonas Gustavsson continue his stellar play for Detroit?
He most certainly can. Detroit's backup was solid once again in the absence of starter Jimmy Howard as he turned aside 30 of the 31 shots he faced in Detroit's 4-1 win, out dueling Montreal's Carey Price.
3. Can Matt Duchene bust out of his slump?
If you count two assists in a 3-2 as busting out of a slump (and you should), then yes. Duchene helped the Avalanche race out to a 3-0 lead in Florida and that was just enough offense for Colorado.
4. Will Michael Del Zotto turn things around in Nashville?
The early returns in Nashville have been mostly positive to this point as Del Zotto played 18:20 on Friday and finished the night with a shot on goal and a plus-one. If nothing else, he wasn't on the ice for any of Calgary's four goals. So that's a start.
5. How will Jordan Eberle respond to the trade rumors?
With the Oilers out of the playoffs and seemingly getting worse rumors are starting to fly that the team could unload some players by the trade deadline and this offseason. Eberle's name has been one of the ones mentioned. He had an assist on Friday as the Oilers dug themselves a huge hole against the Coyotes by giving up four straight goals to start the game.
The one play or moment from Friday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
The Canadiens seem to be going through the motions right now and Michel Therrien seems to be pushing all of the wrong buttons. His latest experiment: Attempting to put Douglas Murray, his slowest and arguably worst defenseman this season, with reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban. It did not go well on Friday. The two spent nearly 10 minutes of 5-on-5 time together and were on the ice for two Detroit goals. There has to be something that can be done to get this team going, but holding your best player back by tying him down with one of the worst players on your team probably isn't it. The only thing this team has going for it right now is Carey Price and his fantastic glove hand.
Stat of the Night
The San Jose Sharks signed Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau to brand new three-year contract extensions on Friday, keeping their core together for the foreseeable future. Here's an underrated part of Marleau's career and one that doesn't get enough attention when the same old, "Sharks can't get it done when it counts" narrative starts up. Since 2000, no player in the NHL has scored more playoff goals than Marleau's 55. Of course the Sharks have played a ton of playoff games over that stretch, but even when you look at it in a goals per game perspective he's still eight in the NHL (minimum 50 games played) over that stretch. He's just a really good player.
Post to Post
- Should the Washington Capitals trade Mike Green? Maybe eventually, but not right now.
- The folks at PensBurgh have a pledge drive going on that you should check out.
- Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are staying in San Jose. The reaction from the folks at Fear The Fin.
- Do in-season coaching changes work?
- There will be no attendance record for the NHL Winter Classic. And it's all mother nature's fault.