MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens called a team meeting after a loss to the San Jose Sharks pushed their losing run to five games.
Reporters were kept waiting for more than 15 minutes outside the dressing room as the Canadiens players hashed over a listless performance of late that has left them well out of a playoff position with half the season still to play.
"We didn't have everyone on board and that's frustrating," Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said after the 4-1 loss on Tuesday night. "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 scored twice while Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic had singles for the Sharks (21-12-4), who were coming off a 6-0 setback Sunday in Dallas. San Jose has won four of five games heading into a game Thursday night in Toronto.
"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 scored just four goals in the last five games and now has to face the league-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 frame, Bell Centre fans were booing the home side.
"Not good," said Pacioretty. "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 is not the only Canadien struggling to find the net. Among others, Jonathan Drouin has only five goals, and none since Nov. 29.
Coach Claude Julien said frustration has crept into his team.
"When that happens, the compete level isn't where it should be," said Julien. "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 chances early as San Jose scored first when 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 11:27 into the second.
Montreal broke a run of 132 minutes without a goal at 16:07, but it took a two-man advantage to do it. And the Canadiens didn't shoot the puck into the net, as Pacioretty's pass to Shaw went off the centre'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 on Carey Price on an off-wing rush down the right side 1:13 into the third.
Dell has won six straight starts.
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 Dec. 26 at the age of 93.
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.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press