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The Habs were back in action on Thursday night as they were visiting the Sunshine State and the surging Florida Panthers. For this contest, the Montreal’s extensive list of injuries got even longer as Phillip Danault was not playing due to concussion-like symptoms so Logan Shaw drew back into the lineup. After an effort that left a sour taste in the mouth of many around the team, one would hope that the Habs would put forth a better effort in Florida. The game started better for the Canadiens, but they were out of it by the midway point of the game and mailed it in the rest on their way to a 5-0 loss.

The game opened with a slow-paced opening ten minutes as the Habs were outskating the Panthers but were far too content to remain on the perimeter. Much like what has been seen since October, this strategy allowed the opposition sufficient time to find their game without having to overcome a deficit. The start of the period was so slanted in favour of the Canadiens that Claude Julien was even able to get his desired matchups despite being the road team.

Near the midway point of the period, an effective forecheck by Daniel Carr allowed him to make a nifty pass to the slot and Nicolas Deslauriers got a quick shot away that Carr certainly thought was in the net. Unfortunately for the Habs, the goal would not count. Personally, I believe the puck was in the net, but because of the way the call was made on the ice, the no-goal ruling was the proper call. With the game scoreless, the next shift saw the Panthers get denied as Charlie Lindgren found himself out of position but dove to make a spectacular stop. The big stop by Lindgren proved important as the Panthers took a penalty on the next shift.

Alex Galchenyuk got a good chance early as the power play attempted to establish itself, but it never could get going. Before the two minutes had expired, Montreal got caught with seven skaters on the ice to end the man advantage. The 4-on-4 remained quiet, but the brief Florida power play stuck quickly. While Jordie Benn and Noah Juulsen worked hard to cover the zone down low, Byron Froese was erratic in his coverage allowing a Jonathan Huberdeau one-timer to open the score. After the Panthers goal, Michael Matheson caught Brendan Gallagher with his head down, while Andrew Shaw retaliated with his own big hit as the physical play picked up to end the period.

To open the second period, Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk were both turned away on good chances by Luongo. The Panthers would then come up the ice where Nick Bjugstad accidentally sent Jeff Petry sprawling and was rewarded with a breakaway for his efforts. Bjugstad made no mistake in deking out Lindgren while Julien fumed on the Habs bench at the non-call and the 2-0 score.

As the play started, Rinat Valiev, who’d been struggling on the night, was hit hard and remained on the ice for some moments as his night would end then and there. On the next shift, Froese was guilty of a terrible giveaway in his own defensive zone. The result was a Micheal Haley one-timer that got through Lindgren. The goal was on a missed shot so Lindgren likely wants that one back, though Karl Alzner’s weak coverage and Paul Byron’s brutal giveaway surely did not help matters.

A few minutes later, two Panthers defenders would collide sending Petry to a breakaway where he was robbed by Luongo’s glove. At the midway point of the period, the Habs would be called for their second too many men on the ice penalty, a call that irritated Julien enough that he was still giving it to the officials when the game returned from a TV timeout. This second edition of the Panthers power play was every bit as dangerous as the first one that scored, but Huberdeau missed the net, and Lindgren made another few good saves. With five minutes to play in the period, Alex Petrovic would open the door for the Habs with a holding penalty. However, the Habs failed to capitalize again as their man advantage could not get synchronized to force the opposition into a passive box.

The task at hand for the Canadiens was almost impossible to start the third as the Panthers were 20-0-0 when leading after two periods this season. It got even more impossible when, a minute and 38 seconds into the period, the final nail in the coffin would arrive. Keith Yandle and Evgenii Dadonov played give-and-go across the Habs zone while Brendan Gallagher, Jonathan Drouin, and Mike Reilly all committed lapses in defensive coverage on the play.

Three minutes later, a point shot by Petry found its way to the net with both Jacob de la Rose and Byron creating traffic. Byron finally got his stick on the rebound and slapped the puck to the back of the net. However, the Panthers would challenge the call for goaltender interference. It was an idiotic challenge, and an even more ridiculous call to bring the goal back because de la Rose was near Luongo.

The effort level on both sides diminished greatly front this point on, as both teams started trying the difficult and spectacular plays which lead to a few pretty individual plays, but mostly to sloppy puck protection from both teams all over the ice. Huberdeau took a penalty for holding, a wise strategy considering the Habs certainly appeared less dangerous on the power play than they did at 5-on-5. Despite the man advantage looking slightly more dangerous than the previous moments in this game, the Panthers were successful at killing the penalty, so Huberdeau decided to test his teammates some more as he was called for delay of game as he played the puck before being completely out of the penalty box.

This time, his teammates showed him what they could do as Vincent Trocheck out-skated Drouin to a loose puck to get a breakaway where he easily fooled Lindgren for a 5-0 score. With such a large score discrepancy, both teams spent the final five minutes going through the motions, anxious to get off the ice on this night.

HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars of the Night

1st Star – Daniel Carr

It’s never a good sign when a player on the team’s fourth line is awarded the first star of a contest. Carr was noticeable on the majority of his shifts during this game as he forechecked hard and made his presence felt in front Luongo and the Panthers’ net. Too bad he lacks a bit of talent and finish which could have made this game slightly more exciting.

Stats: 0 points, -1, 3 shots (6 attempts), 15:41 TOI

2nd Star – Mike Reilly

On a night where there isn’t much positive to write about, Reilly stood out as a defender who did not spend his shifts in the defensive zone as he completed some breakout passes and joined the rush when the opportunity presented itself. Obviously, the stats don’t reflect positively with the final score, but Reilly played a very decent game once again.

Stats: 0 points, -2 rating, 3 shots, 26:21 TOI (career high)

3rd Star – Jeff Petry

Partnered with Reilly, Petry obtained a few excellent scoring chances. He was the victim on the unfortunate second goal by the Panthers, but that’s not entirely his fault considering the missed interference.

Stats: 0 points, -3 rating, 8 shots (11 attempts), 2 blocks, 22:31 TOI

Following the game, the Habs announced that defenceman Brett Lernout has been recalled on an emergency basis from Laval.  With David Schlemko still not 100% and Valiev getting hurt, they qualified to use an emergency recall instead of one of the four post-deadline recalls that each team is allotted.