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Canadiens vs. Panthers game recap: Broken sticks and double deflections

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The Canadiens hosted the Panthers Tuesday night and lost in overtime, despite some strong play for most of the game.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal came into their Tuesday night game as the top team in the league, hosting Atlantic division opponent Florida Panthers. Prior to the game, the Habs called up Chris Terry and confirmed Greg Pateryn would be inserted into the lineup. The former was the result of Alexander Radulov being sick and unavailable, while Pateryn took the spot of Joel Hanley.

In the opening shift of the game, Jaromir Jagr was called for hooking just 24 seconds in, sending Montreal's dangerous powerplay onto the ice. Max Pacioretty demonstrated his quick release on a beautiful wrist shot that beat Roberto Luongo, and set an authoritative tone to the beginning of the game. Nathan Beaulieu and David Desharnais picked up assists on the powerplay goal.

Despite the Canadiens’ hot start, the Panthers would even it up mere minutes later, when Florida caught Montreal's defence scrambling. Alex Petrovic slipped the puck past Carey Price with all three Montreal forwards out of position in defensive territory.

By the halfway mark of the period, Florida began taking control of the pace and puck possession, spending more time with the puck and in offensive territory than Montreal.

Kyle Rau gave the Panthers a lead by snapping a one-timer into the net. He was set up beautifully by rookie Michael Matheson, who delivered a gorgeous assist between his legs from the boards behind Carey Price. The pass found Rau as he crept into the slot unchecked, and he made no mistake with his shot, which put the Canadiens on their heels. The Habs would finish the period down 2-1 and were badly outshot 12-6.

After getting an assist on the opening goal and having a positive first period, David Desharnais seemed eager to continue his strong play. He succeeded in evening the score to open the period. Andrei Markov pinched into the Florida zone and recovered a loose puck behind Luongo. From the corner, the veteran flung the puck into the slot, finding Desharnais for his third of the season. Chris Terry collected his first point in a Habs uniform, picking up the secondary assist on the play.

Seconds after the goal announcement, Alex Galchenyuk drew a penalty with strong puck possession and skating as he got tripped by Jussi Jokinen along the boards. Galchenyuk appeared unfazed at having lost linemate Alexander Radulov, and continued to be a threat every time he touched the puck.

The second period started in opposite fashion of its predecessor, and Montreal took a stranglehold of the puck for the middle frame. By the midway mark of the period, Florida had only registered one shot on net.

As the game passed the halfway point, however, Florida once again began settling back into the groove. A great passing play culminating in a wide open shot by recently acquired Seth Griffith forced Carey Price to be his best self and make a Carey-Price-like save to keep the game tied. Despite not having been tested much, the Habs’ netminder was ready to make important saves when he was needed.

Despite Price's efforts, the Panthers once again took a one-goal lead when Denis Malgin scored with a little over two minutes remaining. His late second period shot deflected off defender Jeff Petry, causing the puck to not only change directions but flutter like a knuckleball. Price had no chance on the play, and thus the second period would end as did the first, with Montreal chasing a one-goal deficit.

The third period opened with NHL sniper Paul Byron anchoring his stake into his top line roster spot, scoring his sixth goal of the year and fourth in the last five games. Brendan Gallagher had possession of the puck and, having no obvious shooting or passing lane, fired the puck into the slot area. The veteran move paid off, as players collapsed on the crease, Luongo fell back, leaving the puck uncovered for Byron to poke in.

Much of the final frame went the same as the second, with Montreal claiming most of the possession time, and outshooting the Panthers 30-9 through periods two and three.

Roberto Luongo, as he has done so many times in his career, came into the Bell Centre and had himself a great game of hockey. When the Canadiens turned up the heat, the Florida goaltender was equal to the task and giving Carey Price a good show.

Luongo would shut the door on Montreal after Byron’s goal, ending regulation time tied at 3-3.

Price. Luongo. Overtime.

Extra hockey can’t be bad, even if this game caused more angst than the last few. An early exciting highlight came from Aleksander Barkov, who broke free from the sideboards and charged in on Price unchallenged. Barkov skillfully slid the puck between his feet and reached back through his legs to deke Price. Carey Price, however, is no stranger to the extraordinary, and he equaled Barkov’s skill level with an elite caliber save.

Since moving to a three-on-three format for overtime, the extra five minutes can seem far more open and chaotic, and unfortunately for Habs fans, a little chaos is exactly what we got. Midway through the overtime period and shortly after Price stunned Aleksander Barkov, Alex Galchenyuk blocked a shot with his stick, which broke. The centre correctly dropped his lumber, but hesitated before going back to the bench.

Without securing his man, Galchenyuk opted to return to the bench for a change instead of playing without a stick. This left the Panthers with a three-to-two man advantage, and Philip Danault was unable to skate into position before Aaron Ekblad sealed a win for Florida. Jussi Jokinen had all the time in the world to feed Ekblad, who leaned so heavily into his shot that he broke his stick in half. The shot then bounced off defenceman Nathan Beaulieu, who was attempting a block. The result was once again a deflected puck for which Carey Price had no solution.

The Canadiens pick up a bonus (loser) point while the Panthers have won their first back-to-back games since the first two of the season (October 15th). The Habs still sit atop the NHL and after a rocky first period, have much positive to look back on from this game. Onwards and upwards!

Thoughts

  • David Desharnais had a solid game tonight, he won puck battles, got involved and was rewarded. Say what you will about his worth, but nobody can question his heart.
  • Carey Price had a couple more “Carey Price” moments. It’s important to remember how awesome this guy is, and how lucky we are to have him. That said, it’s nice to have him back but also not feel like the game rests entirely on his shoulders. The Habs have put forth solid efforts of late.
  • Chris Terry looked solid in his Montreal debut. He has shone in St. John’s and looks to take advantage of his opportunity with the Canadiens while it lasts. Terry benefited from power play time early in the game, grabbed an assist and stayed noticeable on most of his shifts.
  • Alex Galchenyuk is a beast. He’s strong on the puck, has soft hands, a hard nose and skates like the wind. He didn’t suffer any setback from not having Radulov on his wing.
  • As much as I want to like the new Florida uniforms... I don’t. There, I said it.
  • Last but not least, I have to repeat the sentiment of my fearless leader, who said it best: