The Habs were back in action after a win that was achieved thanks to both goaltenders on the ice on Tuesday as Samuel Montembeault was solid and Tristan Jarry was not. They spent Thursday as the visitors as they visited the Panthers in a game that saw no goaltender show up to play. The first period alone was a disaster for three netminders and both teams defensively as ten goals were scored. The offensive festival continued as the score was 9-4 after two periods before both teams went through the motions in the third as the Habs made it 9-5 in one of the worst-played games of the year.
Martin St. Louis opted to keep the winning lineup up front as Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Jesse Ylonen remained on the top line with Nick Suzuki. Denis Gurianov and Josh Anderson played with Jonathan Drouin while Rem Pitlick and Mike Hoffman joined Alex Belzile. The fourth line saw Michael Pezzetta and Anthony Richard play with Chris Tierney. The blue line was also similar as Johnathan Kovacevic and Mike Matheson were the top pair, supported by Kaiden Guhle and David Savard on the second pair while Justin Barron and Joel Edmundson rounded out the group. Montembeault was the starter in net. Montembeault didn’t finish the first period, but he did finish the second and the game.
Only 16 seconds into the game, a quick breakout by Kovacevic, Drouin, and Anderson sent Matheson on a rush chance. The Panthers closed the lanes, so Matheson opted for a shot from well outside the optimal slot, but the shot beat Sergei Bobrovsky and the Habs were up early.
At 2:43, the Panthers evened the score when Hoffman failed to get the puck out of his defensive zone which sent the Habs scrambling. As is often the case, Colin White came off the bench and was unchecked. This allowed a nice pass from Nick Cousins to the slot where White came in and beat Montembeault.
At 3:17, Florida took the lead when Anderson did not follow Verhaeghe after the zone entry which allowed him to get a pass in the low slot and deke Montembeault to take the lead.
Two minutes later, the Habs tied it back up when Richard completed a strong forecheck with some support by a Guhle pinch. This got the puck back to Richard who, much like Matheson, took a shot from far out that beat Bobrovsky.
Florida went back up at 6:04. Gurianov worked hard to backcheck, but doubled the coverage of the defender instead of picking up the late guy who was Gustav Forsling. The latter grabbed the puck and fired it home to end Montembeault’s night (for now, at least) after three goals in 6:04 of play and seven shots.
The Habs would once again even the score at 8:18. A strong forecheck by Pezzetta returned to him as Richard got a puck in the slot but had his shot blocked. The puck flew in the air and Pezzetta tipped it home.
The Panthers didn’t allow that for long as they fired back at 9:09. Ylonen lost a board battle trying to get the puck out of the zone. The puck went back to Aaron Ekblad who had his point shot deflected by Harvey-Pinard trying to block the shot.
The second half of the period started on the same note. A weak clearing attempt by Kovacevic (his first period was atrocious) was compounded by weak support by Gurianov. Another point shot, this time by Radko Gudas, another deflection, this time by Ryan Lomberg, and it was 5-3 at 10:33. Gudas then delivered a big hit on Guhle. Pezzetta took exception and the play continued with four players (two from each team) stuck in the corner. Sam Reinhart took advantage of the extra ice to use Savard as a pylon before putting a weak shot on net that beat Jake Allen. Less than a minute later, a point shot bounced out on the other side of the net with no one covering Verhaeghe who had an empty net.
Play settled for the final six minutes as no goals were scored and only Guhle took a penalty for hooking with exactly two minutes to play. The Canadiens killed the penalty, though it required a few saves from Allen. All this appeared to be too little, too late as the period ended 7-3 for the Panthers; 18-7 in shots on net.
The second period started much like the first as Harvey-Pinard got on the board 2:26 into the period. An offensive zone faceoff win by Suzuki went to Barron who shot and Harvey-Pinard deflected it home.
Tierney cleared a puck directly out of the rink at 3:36 which sent the Panthers to a second advantage. Florida once again did not get much, but a scramble ensued with five seconds left and Ekblad was able to jam home a rebound to make it 8-4.
At 7:33, Harvey-Pinard made a fancy play in the neutral zone that was intercepted. Matthew Tkachuk skated in and used Edmundson as a screen to score a ninth goal that sent Montembeault back into the game.
The second half started with another Florida man advantage after a Richard offensive zone tripping penalty even though Montour was actually tripped by his teammate. Florida’s advantage once again was not dangerous. The rest of the period saw no goals, though play remained wide open as the Habs hit three posts and Montembeault was forced to make three excellent saves.
The third started with a Florida 31-15 shot lead, 9-4 in goals. The period itself was much quieter as the Panthers were clearly going through the motions.
Montreal started the period with a 2-on-1 where Pitlick tried to land an impossible pass to Hoffman before Suzuki rushed himself on a partial break. Ekblad then took a penalty and the Hab’s first advantage was successful as Matheson delivered a masterful pass to Pitlick for a one-timer goal. Worth noting that Matheson had intercepted a clearing attempt and deked a defender before delivering the nice pass to make it 9-5.
With 13 minutes to play, Guhle took his third big bump of the game, and this time appeared to favour a knee as he immediately retreated to the dressing room although he did stay in the game. Tentative and cautious play continued for both teams.
With three minutes to play, Suzuki took exception to a shot after a whistle with a stick to the face of the Panthers players and was sent to the dressing room with a five-minute major penalty that will likely be reviewed by the league. As the game ended with three minutes of Florida power play time, the Habs killed the sequence with little fight from the attacking team who kept their top players on the bench as the game ended 9-5 and 42-30 in shots.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Anthony Richard
The fourth line is only one that was skating for the entire sixty minutes of play and Richard was the best of the bunch. He also has the nicest stat line, so he gets the nod in what was an ugly game.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, 0 (+/-), 2 shots, 1 hit, 10:26 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Michael Pezzetta
Much like Richard, Pezzetta was one of the few that was skating. It was as productive as one would expect from a borderline NHLer, but it was the best the Habs had to offer on this night.
Stats: 1 goal, 0(+/-), 2 shots, 6 hits, 10:36 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Rafael Harvey-Pinard
This was far from Harvey-Pinard’s best game, but big picture, he did Harvey-Pinard-like things where his effort never dipped and he continued to battle long after his teammates, as shown by his second period marker.
Stats: 1 goal, -1, 1 shot, 1 hit, 18:11 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Mike Matheson
Once again, Matheson was Montreal’s best defender by a mile. His stat line is mighty ugly thanks to some terrible support by the forwards and compounded by the rookie defender next to him who had one of the worst periods of hockey seen all season long for the Habs who are a 27th-place team.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, -3, 3 shots, 20:22 T.O.I.