HabsWorld.net -- 

The Habs looked to get back in the win column on Tuesday as they were in Florida to take on the Panthers.  It was certainly an eventful game and featured a three-goal comeback from Montreal but it wasn’t enough as they fell 7-4.

Head coach Martin St. Louis opted to make only one lineup change from their lineup in New Jersey on Sunday and it was an expected one as Jake Allen got the nod in goal instead of Samuel Montembeault.  He did, however, make some tweaks to the forward lines with the new ones being as follows:

Caufield – Suzuki – Hoffman
Pitlick – Dvorak – Anderson
Byron – Evans – Armia
Perreault – Dauphin – Ylonen

There were no changes on the back end.  Jordan Harris is with the team but it stands to reason that he’ll get a few practices in before making his NHL debut.

Montreal got off to a sluggish start in the opening couple of minutes but their first trip past centre with control was a good one.  Jesse Ylonen was in on a two-on-one with Mathieu Perreault and instead of opting for the cross-ice pass, he dropped it back to the trailing Chris Wideman who was able to fire it past Sergei Bobrovsky to open the scoring.

Alexander Romanov and Sam Bennett went off for roughing a minute later and the ensuing four-on-four was eventful with several rushes.  David Savard slashed Anthony Duclair near the end of that stretch, giving Florida a brief four-on-three.  Nothing happened there and their power play was pretty quiet overall as the Canadiens had the best opportunity when Aleksander Barkov’s drop pass missed, allowing Paul Byron to skate in unopposed but he couldn’t slip it five-hole.

Montreal had several good shifts after the penalty and was able to get some offensive zone time.  With eight and a half minutes left, however, the Jake Evans line got hemmed in their own end and botched several clearing attempts.  When they were able to clear it, they had a two-on-one but Evans missed the net after receiving the feed from Joel Armia.

The Habs got their first power play of the game with a little under five minutes left when Noel Acciari went off for tripping Romanov.  It didn’t go well.  Claude Giroux had the best chance of the first half and moments later, Justin Barron turned it over, allowing Florida to have a two-man break.  Eetu Luostarinen fed it to Jonathan Huberdeau and he backhanded it past Allen.  At the end of the power play, Laurent Dauphin had some room to skate in from the left wing but whiffed on the shot.

With a little under two minutes left, Evans took a glove to the face and lost his focus momentarily.  That allowed Joe Thornton to get control in the corner and he quickly set up Ryan Lomberg for a one-timer that beat Allen to give Florida the lead, one they held until the buzzer as they headed to the room with a one-goal advantage and a 14-13 edge in shots.

In the opening minute of the second, Giroux’s cross-ice pass was redirected by Romanov into Allen but he was able to make the save.  It largely set the tone for a tough defensive period, however.  Less than two minutes later, Ben Chiarot’s point shot hit a leg and went right to Sam Bennett who had a wide-open net and made no mistake to make it 3-1.

The Panthers went back to the power play two minutes later when Wideman high-sticked Lomberg.  It was Montreal who had the best chance though…sort of.  They had an opportunity for a two-on-one but Rem Pitlick completely overskated the puck in the neutral zone.  The Canadiens were able to kill the rest of the penalty though.

But just over a minute later, Mike Hoffman turned it over at the defensive blueline and Florida countered quickly as Barkov fed a pass across to Lomberg who fired it home for his first career multi-goal game.  Montreal pondered an offside challenge from the previous zone entry but decided against it.

For the next several minutes, the Habs were pinned in their own end and couldn’t muster up any extended offensive zone time.  They got one decent look off a break when Perreault sent a cross-ice feed for Dauphin but it was deflected wide with a little over six minutes to go.  That seemed to wake them up, however.

With less than four minutes left, Nick Suzuki got the puck at centre ice and skated it into Florida’s zone.  He went for a long skate, ultimately going behind the net before spotting Joel Edmundson who one-timed it home for his first of the season.

On the next shift, Ylonen hustled to negate an icing, allowing the puck to stay in the offensive end.  The puck found its way to Perreault who again had a cross-ice pass for Dauphin but this time, the centre buried it to make it a one-goal game.  Two goals for the road side in 31 seconds.

They weren’t done there.  Just over a minute later, Pitlick got control of the puck in the corner and sent it out front for Christian Dvorak.  His one-timer somehow snuck through Bobrovsky short-side for Montreal’s third goal in 1:42.  Somehow, despite being dominated for most of the period, it was tied after 40 minutes with the Panthers outshooting the Canadiens 19-5 with the Habs scoring on three of the few shots they had.

Unfortunately for Montreal, the third didn’t start any better than the second.  On the second shift of the period, Hoffman had another brutal defensive zone giveaway.  Two quick passes later, Huberdeau pulled the same move he did for his first goal of the game and the result was the same to give Florida back the lead.

Two minutes later, the Habs had a good chance to tie as Dvorak’s pass to Josh Anderson was on the mark but his feed for Pitlick was just off the mark.  It landed in his skates instead of on his stick and the puck went wide.

Just past the midway mark, Barkov bowled into Allen as MacKenzie Weegar was shooting, giving the Canadiens a power play.  That lasted nine seconds as the Panthers got control off the draw and went in on a two-on-one with Dvorak tripping Huberdeau to break up the play.  30 seconds later, Savard hooked Giroux, giving Florida a lengthy four-on-three advantage.

As was often the case in this one, the penalty killing team again had the best chance as Evans got a step on Weegar and was off to the races.  His shot was stopped but Evans went into the boards hard, injuring him on the play and ending his night early.  Montreal did well to kill off the rest of the advantage unscathed.

Barely a minute later, however, Bennett won his board battle and sent the puck out front to Mason Marchment.  He was all alone and tapped it home to double Florida’s lead and really put the game out of reach.  St. Louis pulled Allen with just over three minutes left but Barkov potted the empty-netter 30 seconds later.  The shots on goal in the period were 13-6 for Florida with the Panthers nearly doubling up the Habs in that department for the game at 46-24.

HW Habs 3 Stars

1st Star: Laurent Dauphin – Dauphin didn’t play a ton (the bench was shortened with Montreal trailing for most of the night) but he was a lot more involved offensively than usual.  He had two points and had a couple of other good chances that just missed.  Not a bad outing in barely ten minutes of work.

Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1 rating, 2 shots, 3/8 faceoffs, 10:03 TOI

2nd Star: Mathieu Perreault – I’m going to highlight the fourth line again.  Perreault didn’t play much but he was much more noticeable than usual and could have had a couple more points had Dauphin potted those other chances.  He’s playing for his career right now after clearing waivers and games like this will help his chances of getting another contract.

Stats: 1 assist, +2 rating, 7:34 TOI

3rd Star: Joel Edmundson – He’s already in a bit of a tough spot as he works his way back into top gear after missing so much of the season but having him work with Justin Barron puts a bit more on his shoulders.  Edmundson had a couple of tough moments in this one but scored a big goal and was one of only a few Habs to match Florida’s physicality.  I also like how he went after Weegar for mouthing off while Evans was being tended to on the ice.

Stats: 1 goal, -2 rating, 2 shots, 7 hits, 3 blocks, 20:20 TOI

Honourable Mention: Jesse Ylonen – Yep, the fourth line again (I thought they were a bit under-utilized with how they were playing).  Ylonen set up the first goal and his hustle to break up an icing call led to another one.  It’s hard to ask for much more from him, especially with how little he’s playing.

Stats: 1 assist, +1 rating, 7:49 TOI