Games in Florida are rarely ever phenomenally exciting, and last night was no different. The lethargic crowd seems to lull everyone to sleep, and it got even worse with no goals for either team after regulation.
The Panthers laughably announced an attendance of 17,021, but if anything it was closer to half of that. The lower bowl was essentially empty for most of the game. Disappointingly, there wasn't even a "Go Habs Go" chant, which usually happens at least a couple times in Sunrise.
The Canadiens took the Panthers to the wood shed in the first two periods, but could get a shot behind Jose Theodore, who was top notch all night, making several really nice stops and keeping rebounds to a minimum. In fact it was the most confident and calm I've ever seen Theodore play against the Habs. I've always had a soft spot for Theo, so I can't help but be happy for him having such a good game.
When the third period rolled around, it seemed like the Canadiens started thinking about grabbing a single point way too early, as they sat back and let the Panthers come at them. It was in the third period that Carey Price had his chance to shine, making multiple excellent stops look way too easy.
Price wasn't pressured all game to make spectacular saves like he has been a few times, but he was perfect when called upon.
Unlike most games Montreal has played this season, the officiating was fairly lax, which resulted in 52:10 of even strength time with the game tied. The Canadiens had spent 70.88 minutes in that situation in their previous 4 road games combined, so expect a nice looking bump in the Canadiens' road possession numbers.
Throughout the game, Rene Bourque was taking the puck to the net, taking punishment to win battles, and generally just playing excellent. It was a sweet sort of justice when he batted the puck out of the air in front of Theodore for the game winner in overtime.
It was tough to imagine a start like this for Bourque, he's most certainly not the player we saw for 38 games last season. In fact, he's matched his production from those 38 games in just 13 this year. His 8 points in 13 games puts him on a 50 points per 82 games pace, which is about as much as you could hope for with Bourque playing tough minutes alongside Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. That Bourque is having this career renaissance after abdominal surgery that was supposed to make him less effective this season makes it even more impressive.
Setting up Bourque's goal was the newly 19 year old rookie Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk's assist broke a 5 game pointless streak for the youngster. Galchenyuk may still be riding a bit of a hot streak for on-ice shooting percentage, but his personal shooting percentage has him suffering from serious bad luck.
Between Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller, and Erik Cole, there's a crazy amount of poor shooting luck going among some of the Habs' best shooters.
One interesting factoid in the game, was that the Canadiens dominated possession in the first 40 minutes while getting blitzed in the faceoff circle, winning only 33% of the draws. In the third period, they were outplayed by Florida, but won a majority of the draws.
Once again the top line produced a ton of shots. Gionta and Bourque tied for the team lead with 4, and Plekanec was right behind with 3.
After starting the period very strong, Cole and Desharnais couldn't seem to get anything done. Cole didn't have a shot attempt after the first. That line could really use Max Pacioretty, and they seemed to play well whenever they did get a shift together, but in the end Brandon Prust got more ice time than Pacioretty for the second straight game.
At least P.K. Subban's ice time went from 5th among defensemen against Tampa to 3rd last night, but Therrien's player usage has a ways to go.
4 points out of 4 in a road trip to Florida are a great way to rebound from the disaster that was last Saturday's game against the Leafs.
Reaction from the losing side at Litter Box Cats.
Next up is the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time this season. Check out Broad Street Hockey for a great look into what the Flyers are like this season. Laura and I will both be at the game on Saturday here in Montreal, so the game thread duties fall to Stephan Cooper.