The Habs returned to the Bell Centre after a rather successful 3-2 road trip. They came home to a tough match as they were playing on the back end of two games in two nights against the reigning Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers. The Panthers were a physical team that often flirted with the legalities of the game all night long. Montreal matched it early, but it became clear that it wasn’t natural for the Habs to play this style as the night wore on and the physical advantage became slanted in favour of the Panthers as the game advanced. The loss was a costly one too as Alex Newhook did not finish the game as the Panthers won 5-1.
Alex Newhook — Nick Suzuki — Brendan Gallagher
Cole Caufield – Christian Dvorak – Juraj Slafkovsky Joel Armia — Sean Monahan — Josh Anderson
Tanner Pearson — Jake Evans — Jesse Ylonen
Mike Matheson — Gustav Lindstrom
Kaiden Guhle — Justin Barron
Jayden Struble — Johnathan Kovacevic
1) The Panthers came out and used a tactic that is often used against the Habs as they tried to play very physically. It was borderline dirty as they seemed to really be aiming at the head or knees of Habs. It cost them as the Canadiens got two early power plays
2) The third man advantage of the period also went to Montreal as Anderson played a puck to himself and used his wheels to create a breakaway only to get tugged down as Gustav Forsling was lucky that it wasn’t called a penalty shot (less than that was called this season). However, the Habs power play was negated seconds later as Matheson was called on a weak interference penalty.
3) The first period was dominated by Primeau and Sergei Bobrovsky. The scoring chances weren’t great, but the goaltenders were up to the task early on. On the second Montreal advantage, they were both excellent as the game opened with odd-man rushes at both ends. Easily the period’s most entertaining sequence.
4) If the Habs played a solid first period, it was clear that the physicality was more natural to the Panthers as the Canadiens came out a little soft on the puck in the second. Florida quickly took advantage as the play was stuck in Montreal’s defensive zone. The only Hab to really respond in kind was Anderson as he had a noticeable game for positive reasons (at least early on). The Habs picked the pace back up as the period advanced.
5) Aleksander Barkov opened the scoring near the middle of the period as he intercepted a terrible pass by Lindstrom to skate across and beat Primeau. The real problem was that they were playing 4-on-4 in the first place as for the second time in the game, a weak call was made on the Habs after a blatant call went against the Panthers.
6) The third period didn’t start great as Barron was soft on the puck off the opening faceoff and it left Monahan on the wrong side of the puck and his player as Sam Bennett made the score 2-0 just eight seconds in. This was quickly followed by Newhook taking a nasty spill behind the Florida net as he had to be helped to the locker room. The life was completely sucked out of the Bell Centre by that point.
7) Evan Rodrigues then extended the lead as he sent a soft shot from the top of the zone that got through Primeau. What an ugly goal to give up for Primeau that essentially sealed the deal of this game.
8) Gallagher did his best to get things going as he crashed into Bobrovsky. The puck went in on the play, but it was immediately waved off as Gallagher was assessed a deserved penalty on the play. Carter Verhaeghe made them play as he scored on the power play.
9) Caufield finally found some dangles as he got through three Panthers before finding Kovacevic who put a shot through Bobrovsky’s glove. Struble nearly got his first point at the Bell Centre on the play with a nice breakout but Evans was ultimately credited with the second assist.
10) Anderson ended the game with a fight as he absolutely tuned Jonah Gadjovich who came looking for him. In a game where the Panthers dominated physically, I wonder why it was Gadjovich who came looking for Anderson.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Josh Anderson
Gallagher could no longer play the way he used to, so he had to learn to pick his spot and the development team did a wonderful job. They tried to do the same with Anderson and I don’t agree with it. Anderson is at his most effective when he plays aggressively in a straight line. He doesn’t have the hands or hockey IQ to be weaving in and out. When he does it effectively and he plays physically, he also creates space for those around him who are better with the puck. On this night, he was physical and more of a straight-line player and it created some scoring chances for the team. I’d like to see more of that from Anderson, even if it means the team needs to “manage the workload” and give him games off so he doesn’t get injured with the frequency he used to.
Stats: -2, 5 hits, 14:24 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Brendan Gallagher
Speaking of Gallagher, on a night when far too many Habs forwards were content to play on the perimeter, not wanting to engage with the physical Panthers blue line, Gallagher never stopped as he crashed the net all night long trying to create for his team. It’s not vintage Gallagher, but it’s an effective Gallagher that does all he can to drag linemates into battle.
Stats: 2 PIMS, even, 1 shot, 1 hit, 13:45 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Cole Caufield
Overall, I preferred Slafkovsky’s game, but as is usually the case with Caufield, all he needs is one chance as he opened space and Kovacevic was able to take advantage of it.
Stats: 1 assist, +1, 16:46 T.O.I.