The Montreal Canadiens erased a 4-1 deficit in the second period, but ultimately fell 7-4 to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday at FLA Live Arena.
Jonathan Huberdeau had two goals and an assist, giving him 93 points in his quest for the Art Ross Trophy. Although the Canadians entered the third period tied 4-4 after scoring three goals on three shots in under two minutes toward the end of the second frame, for the most part they were outgunned by the offensive juggernaut that is the Florida Panthers. Jake Allen made 39 saves to keep things relatively close.
It was Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot and Robert Hagg’s home debuts for the Panthers.
Jake Evans slid hard into the boards on a breakaway in the third period, and is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Earlier in the day, the Habs made everyone in chilly Montreal jealous by enjoying some sand and surf.
Besides swapping Sunday’s starter Sam Montembeault for Allen, there were no lineup changes. Freshly signed defenseman Jordan Harris did partake in beach day and warmup.
Now to the goals, of which there were many. After a third consecutive start where the puck was mostly in Montreal’s end, Chris Wideman the trailer scored on his team’s first shot. Jesse Ylönen got his second assist in as many games since his call-up.
It seemed inevitable the Panthers would score, and the floodgates opened at 16:17 when Huberdeau beat Allen with a backhand for a shorthanded marker.
Just 1:40 later, ageless wonder Joe Thornton stole the puck and fed Ryan Lomberg for a one-timer at the top of the circle. Lomberg beat Allen glove side to give Florida a 2-1 lead headed into Period 2.
The Habs were outshot 19-5 in the second period, yet somehow emerged tied. Noel Acciari suffered an upper-body injury in the first and his night was done. Sam Bennett made it 3-1 just 2:37 into the period, with former Hab Chiarot getting the helper.
Then Lomberg got his second, with a low shot from the slot. It was 4-1 Panthers. At one point the Habs were outshot 15-1 in the period. Things were looking to say for the away team.
Martin St. Louis’s Habs have shown no quit during his tenure, but this time their brief comeback really came out of thin air. Joel Edmundson scored his first of the season to get the rally going. His blueline partner Justin Barron got his first NHL point on the goal. Edmundson earlier said he would dedicate his next goal to his late father, Bob, and it was a good one. Nick Suzuki also got his 50th point of the season with an assist.
The Habs weren’t done. Just 31 seconds later, Mathieu Perreault found Laurent Dauphin in front, and Dauphin buried it to reduce Florida’s lead to 4-3.
And just over a minute after that, Christian Dvorak completed the improbable comeback with a one-timer that found some space through Sergei Bobrovsky before hitting the back of the net. The stunned FLA Live Arena crowd just watched the dominating Panthers cough up the lead in a flash.
The Panthers probably didn’t need a motivational speech from coach Andrew Brunette during the intermission. Either way, they came out ready to stomp the surprising Habs. Huberdeau opened scoring 1:19 into the third period after Mike Hoffman’s defensive zone turnover. The talented Cats played keep-away in the third, outshooting Montreal 13-6.
With just over five minutes remaining, Mason Marchment provided the 6-4 insurance goal after he was left all alone in front of Allen.
Aleksander Barkov feels the Florida faithful home happy with the 7-4 empty-netter.
No one in the Liveblog comments expected the Habs to pull off a miracle win against the clear-cut best offensive team in the NHL, but discussions were plentiful regarding the nature of losing. There’s potentially a lot of losing coming in the near future.
The Canadians are a ways away from challenging the Floridas of the world for the division crown. The commenters saw the growing pains as Alexander Romanov played over 25 tough minutes against a Hart candidate in Huberdeau, and how Barron in just his second game as a Hab (he played 20:43!) was tasked with making split-second decisions against a foe unlike any he witnessed in the AHL. Given the circumstances, they held their own. But what about the Hoffman gaffe that turned the tide in the third? The commenters still hold the veterans to a certain standard, and understandably so.
In the coming seasons, Habs fans will be looking for long-term progress: young players winning jobs and reaching their potential. Those developments will take time. But what are Habs fans looking for on a game-to-game basis? Especially when lopsided contests like this one happen?
So far during St. Louis’s time as coach, the team has competed most nights and made palatable losses. But some nights, there will be reminders of just how much work the Habs have ahead of them.
3. “Not a good night. But Shane Wright gets closer. Hoffman needs to sit. Tired of his penalties and brutal d zone play. Likely show casing him to move him in off season. Fingers crossed.” -Dale Risling
2. “Unbelievable. The first 15mins being as dominated as a team can be, then the last 5mins, popping in 3 goals on 3 straight chances.” -James Toth
1. “Well, better to lose 7-4 (after being tied after 40mins) than 7-1 with the game decided after 10 minutes.” -Michael Way
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