Last night, the Canadiens faced off against a team looking to better their standing at the top of the playoff race. Tonight, they'll see a squad fighting to get into the playoffs any way they can.
Despite these circumstances, it would appear that the Canadiens are the more desperate team entering this evening's game.
It took some major score effects, with Montreal down 3-0, for the Canadiens to begin to pull ahead of the Lightning in even strength Corsi. The achievement marks the first time in 12 games that the Habs have out-possessed their opponents at even strength, and coincidentally, it was against Florida that they last realized the dream. Were it not for Carey Price's constant acts of heroism, it could be the Canadiens that Florida would be chasing down. Instead, it is the Boston Bruins that the Panthers will seek to close on this evening.
How to Watch
Tale of the Tape
All stats prior to last night's games.
|48.8||Score-Adjusted Fenwick %||50.5
|1.18||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.98|
Know Your Enemy
While the Habs have been mired in a difficult month, the Panthers have endured some drama of their own. Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya's injuries put the team in the national spotlight, but once the novelty of the goalie coach taking the reins wore off, it was Dan Ellis who was left holding the bag.
Ellis has played well enough, helping the Cats to three wins in his five starts. The points have helped Florida keep pace in a very competitive race for the East's final seed. Six back of the Bruins, the Panthers now have to fend off the onrushing Ottawa Senators, who are racking up the points on the strength of Andrew Hammond's play and games against Montreal.
Now, it appears that Ellis' work may be done, as Luongo is poised to return to the crease. Prior to his injury, Luongo was enjoying a solidcampaign, and the Quebec-born goalie was particularly strong when his team played Montreal a month ago. With Florida's skaters in a minor slump, some strong goaltending may be just what the doctor ordered.
Just as Montreal will seek to pair a win on the scoreboard with a win in the possession table, the Panthers likely have the same goal. Florida put forth a strong effort against the Rangers on Saturday, but couldn't buy a goal on Cam Talbot. With time growing ever shorter, the Panthers should be highly motivated to crack Dustin Tokarski.
Last Time Out
Montreal's last game against Florida represents the type of performance they can build on. The Habs put forth a solid effort, to a man, when the Panthers visited the Bell Centre 12 games ago.
They manhandled the Panthers on possession, but only Brendan Gallagher could find a way to beat Roberto Luongo. Unfortunately, the Habs were undermined by an event even rarer than the Habs winning the possession game: Carey Price giving up a bad goal.
Tomas Fleischmann, now a former Panther, skated behind Price's net, and the Habs keeper moved with the momentum of the forward. With a deceptive pass back against the grain, Steven Kampfer caught Price out of position, potting the tying goal from a bad angle. The play marked the second straight goal for which Fleischmann was the catalyst, and gave Florida their ticket to the extra frame.
In the talent show, it was the Panthers who emerged victorious. With Alex Galchenyuk, P.A. Parenteau, and Lars Eller sick, hurt, and in Michel Therrien's dog house, respectively, the Habs did not ice three of their stronger shooters. Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban could not capitalize on their first opportunities of the year, and that gave Dave Bolland the chance to seize the win with a five-hole marker.
Like that shootout, the Canadiens have, for the past month, failed to put their best foot forward. Tonight, with desperation slowly increasing, they'll hope that another match-up against the Panthers is what they need to get moving in the other direction.