The Canadiens kicked off their Super Bowl weekend with a matinee matchup against their division rivals, the Florida Panthers. Montreal had a great start to their weekend as it was a perfect performance from the Canadiens. They took a 1-0 lead early in the opening frame and never looked back en route to a dominating 4-0 victory.
There was only one lineup change made by Claude Julien with Jordan Weal drawing in for Ryan Poehling. It was also announced before the game that Jesperi Kotkaniemi was sent down to Laval to regain his confidence.
With the Panthers playing their first game in ten days, the Habs were the much better team early on. Just over five minutes into the game, Joel Armia took Jeff Petry’s pass and made a great play to one-touch it over to a streaking Nick Suzuki. Suzuki came in down the right wing and fired a rocket of a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky to open the scoring.
The Habs continued to dominate the game but they were derailed a bit when they were called for too many men eleven minutes in. On the Panthers’ power play, Armia and Nate Thompson had a great chance in front but were stopped. Florida quickly turned it the other way, sending Jonathan Huberdeau in alone. Carey Price made a quick save with his blocker to keep one of the hottest shooters in the NHL off the board.
After the Habs successfully killed the penalty they took control of the game once again. All four lines dominated the puck and each line had dangerous chances to extend the lead. Despite owning the game for the rest of the period, Montreal could not find the all-important second goal to create some breathing space.
The second period went even better for the Habs than the first did. It started with Artturi Lehkonen drawing a holding penalty on Mike Hoffman two minutes in. Max Domi came close when Ilya Kovalchuk feathered a great pass to him in front, but Bobrovsky just caught it in time. Other than that, there was not much going on for the Habs with the power play.
Six minutes into the period, Jeff Petry shot a quick wrister towards the net. Lehkonen was in a perfect spot and delicately tipped it through the legs of Bobrovsky. Montreal finally got their insurance goal. There was a little bit of pressure put on by Florida after the goal but they could not sustain it.
Montreal continued to own the game and extended their lead further with six minutes to go in the period. Phillip Danault had the puck behind the net and sent a pass out front. The pass was tipped up by Bobrovsky, but Tomas Tatar smacked the bouncing puck out of the air and roofed it to extend his team lead in goals and points.
The third goal seemed to bring even more energy to the Habs bench, and they continued to dominate Florida. The Canadiens put enormous amounts of pressure on for the rest of the period, and the Panthers were barely hanging on for dear life. When the buzzer rang to end the period, the Bell Centre crowd erupted to applaud the home team for an outstanding period.
The Habs faced a major test to start the third period. Just over a minute in, Armia took a slashing penalty. Florida looked dangerous early in the power play, but the Habs kept them off the board. With three seconds left in the penalty, Price cleared the puck, but it went too high and cleared the glass. The Habs came through with another outstanding kill, thanks to a couple of key saves from Price.
With ten minutes to go in the game, Danault drew a holding penalty on Mike Matheson, and the Habs got another power play chance. With the man advantage, Petry fired a slapper from the point and Gallagher tipped it over Bobrovsky for his second goal in as many games since returning.
The Canadiens’ penalty kill faced one more test when Suzuki took a holding penalty with just under eight minutes left. Montreal continued to get the best of the Panthers, but with twenty seconds left, Armia got called for a questionable interference penalty. It was more of the same for the Habs, and they continued their perfect afternoon with another big kill.
The officials decided to give the Panthers one more power play chance late in the game with a weak cross-checking call on Nick Cousins. The penalty killers were great again and finished off a six for six night. When the clock struck zero, Price scooped up the puck to remember the shutout that put him ahead of Ken Dryden to third place in Montreal Canadiens history.
Absolutely everything went right today for Montreal. They dominated the game from start to finish. Each of the top three lines contributed a goal, as well as another from the power play which snapped a lengthy streak without scoring on home ice. Their defensive zone play was stellar and the penalty kill was unbeatable. Most importantly, they picked up two points against a team they will need to chase down in order to potentially clinch a playoff spot.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Jeff Petry
Petry was all over the ice in this one. He was in on all four of the goals with four assists, two of which were directly from his point shots. He was great defensively as well during even strength play, as well as on the six successful penalty kills.
Stats: 4A, +3, 2 SOG, 4 hits, 22:21 TOI
Second Star – Artturi Lehkonen
Lehkonen contributed to the game in many different ways this afternoon. He was strong on the forecheck all game and was the best Hab in that aspect of. He was the best forward on the penalty kill and managed to generate shorthanded chances on several occasions. On top of all the intangibles he brings, he also added a goal to his impressive performance.
Stats: 1G, +1, 5 SOG, 2 hits, 16:10 TOI
Third Star – Carey Price
Price wasn’t busy at all for the first forty minutes, but he came up big in the final twenty. Price made several key saves in the third period to keep his perfect game intact. Ever since the overtime win in Ottawa a couple weeks ago, Price has been outstanding between the pipes for the Habs. It is very likely that he will get the start again tomorrow afternoon.
Stats: W, SO, 29 saves
Honourable Mention- Nick Suzuki
Suzuki was the best Hab on the ice for the entirety of the first period. He is developing good chemistry with Kovalchuk and Armia, which is providing the Habs with a very useful second line. He showed his skill on a number of occasions this afternoon, including his great shot on the opening goal.
Stats: 1G, 1A, +1, 2 SOG, 1 hit, 18:16 TOI