Throughout the course of the season a team will inevitably hit peaks and valleys.
During those peaks they're likely to win games they had no right winning, and lose games where they deserved better. Thursday night's game was the latter for the Habs.
As opposed to their usual slow start, the Canadiens started the game on the right foot, carrying the play for the majority of the first period. Florida's best scoring chance came from a semi-slewfoot by Jussin Jokinen on PK Subban, which resulted in a 2 vs 1 for the Panthers. Fortunately Carey Price made the save, in what was otherwise a relatively calm game for Montreal's MVP.
All eyes were on Subban's foot. Literally. Sportsnet mentioned it roughly 9,000 times, along with several closeups of his skate. If there was any doubt that the former Norris winner wasn't at full health, it was quickly dismissed upon seeing Subban perform his customary dynamic skating. The game also featured a pair of AHL regulars, in Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi. Both played admirably, including some rough stuff from Tinordi, which is sure to excite the coaching staff.
Montreal's perseverance paid off a couple of minutes into the second period, when Brendan Gallagher notched his 100th NHL point by beating Luongo through the legs. It was a typical Gallagher goal which involved outworking his defender to pounce on a Max Pacioretty rebound.
Gallagher wasn't done there. Thanks to some sweet moves by Subban, he once again found himself in a prime position to take advantage of a rebound, to give the Habs a 2-0 lead.
The celebration would be short-lived. Tomas Fleischman took advantage of a couple fortunate bounces, launching a bouncing puck that fooled Price. What came next was one of the rarest events that takes place on this planet. Carey Price looked bad during a goal. He lost sight of the puck thanks to some creative play by the Panthers behind the net, which allowed Steven Kampfer to score his first goal in 1,062 days.
Both teams exchanged chances in overtime, with the best coming off a great Greg Pateryn pass that found a streaking Plekanec. Luongo, who played a masterful game, would have none of it, forcing the teams to the shootout.
The Panthers ended up winning the skills competition, which included some questionable shooter choices by Michel Therrien, but the reality remains that the shootout is more or less a crap shoot. The amount of double-guessing after a shootout loss is probably too high considering how random it is. On that note, it's worth reminding yourself that the loss was riddled with silver linings.
First of all, Montreal played a great game. They dominated the even-strength play, and probably deserved a better fate than just one point. Fortunately, the two points they gave away will surely frustrate the Boston Bruins, which is always a good thing from a Habs fan's perspective.
The new lineup seemed much more efficient than we had seen in recent games. Brendan Gallagher's return to the first line was triumphant, and I'd be remiss if I didn't note the great effort from the Eller-Plekanec-Sekac line. They didn't score, but they did a good job generating scoring chances.
Nine times out of ten, an effort like the one we saw from the Habs on Thursday night will be enough to take home two points.
(Scoring chances and shot chart sourced from War on Ice )