The Habs were looking to get back on track after a rough game on Thursday as they took on the Florida Panthers in Sunrise on Saturday. The shorthanded Habs couldn’t salvage anything from the trip to Florida, dropping a 4-1 decision.
Montreal got one of their key players back for this one with Brendan Gallagher back from illness. Charlie Lindgren was between the pipes for the second straight Saturday night.
The Habs were tested early on when Christian Folin took a tripping penalty. Montreal did not allow Florida to score with the man advantage but it did seem to set the tone for the rest of the opening frame.
Most of the period was played in the Canadiens’ zone with the Panthers pressing to score the opening goal on home ice. The Habs didn’t match Florida’s speed and intensity for large parts of the opening frame. Luckily for the Habs, Lindgren was looking sharp and he made many key saves to keep the game scoreless.
The best scoring chance for the Canadiens came about halfway through the first period, courtesy of Jordan Weal. Weal was sent in on a breakaway, and his backhand shot was a couple of inches too high as it went over the crossbar.
The shots on goal were 13-8 in favour of Florida at the end of the first twenty, with both goalies playing on top of their game.
Early in the second period, there was a bad turnover in the Montreal zone. This left Frank Vatrano wide open in the slot, but Lindgren made another big save. Shortly after that, the Canadiens got their second breakaway chance when Domi went in alone, but Chris Driedger stopped and covered it.
Eight minutes in a weak slashing call on Domi gave Florida their second power play chance. The Habs stymied the power play, but Florida took advantage just after it expired as Lucas Wallmark found his way in behind the Habs’ defence and deked to the backhand for the opening goal.
With six minutes left in the middle frame, a double minor for high-sticking was assessed to Dominic Toninato. With 1:10 left in that advantage, Gallagher was hit in the face by Aaron Ekblad’s stick. The Habs put on all kinds of pressure from the point but they did not take advantage of the golden opportunity that was presented to them.
To make matters worse after their missed chance, the Canadiens had too many men on the ice to send the Panthers to the power play. Montreal killed the first 1:20 with some more great saves from Lindgren, but they still had forty seconds to deal with to start the third.
Forty seconds into the third period, MacKenzie Weegar slapped a one-timer right through Lindgren to put the Habs down by two. Then four minutes later, Jonathan Huberdeau added one to make it 3-0 to really put it out of reach.
Eight minutes into the period Jake Evans picked up the puck on the boards. He then made a strong move towards the middle, where he fired a perfect shot into the top corner for the Habs’ first of the night.
The goal gave the Canadiens some much-needed energy, and for the first time all night, they started to play more in the Florida zone. Unfortunately, with all the injuries Montreal just didn’t have the firepower to make a comeback.
The Habs pulled Lindgren with three minutes left, but with two minutes to go, Mike Hoffman sent the puck into the yawning cage from his defensive zone to kill any hopes of a possible comeback.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Jake Evans
In one of Nate Thompson’s last interviews with the Habs, he sung some very high praise for the talent that Evans possesses. He is starting to show it now with the big club. He has performed admirably as a centreman so far. You can tell he is starting to get more comfortable at the big league level and that was especially evident on his nice goal in the third.
Stats: 1G, +1, 2 SOG, 1 hit, 11:44 TOI
Second Star – Jordan Weal
There wasn’t a lot of positivity offensively for the Habs tonight. However, Weal was one of the better Canadiens forwards on the night. He tried to make plays and played with speed and skill and had one of the better chances on the night with the breakaway in the first period.
Stats: 4 SOG, 12:24 TOI
Third Star – Lukas Vejdemo
Despite the bad loss, Vejdemo managed to finish the night on the positive side. He played well with Dale Weise and Evans on the first line, and they were the ones who scored the only Habs goal without being on for a goal against.
Stats: +1, 3 SOG, 1 hit, 10:00 TOI
Honourable Mention – Charlie Lindgren
Even though he fell apart a little bit in the third period, Lindgren was great for the first forty minutes. He made some difficult saves to keep the Habs in it for as long as he possibly could. He has had a couple of decent outings in the last week, but I believe he will still need to show more to be Montreal’s backup beyond this season.
Stats: 28 saves, .903 save percentage