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Canadiens vs. Panthers recap: Garbage Time

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The season is almost over, and the Montreal Canadiens are playing like they can't wait for it to end.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadiens and Panthers renewed hostilities in Montreal as two teams heading in vastly different directions: Florida wrestling for favourable positioning heading into the playoffs, and the Habs looking to play spoiler.

Al Montoya got the start for the Panthers, and Luongo's backup saw only two shots by the halfway point of the period; in contrast, Montreal's defensive play - best described as generous - allowed Florida ten shots on Condon only nine minutes into the game.

Mark Barberio made an superb defensive play to break up a 2-on-1 between Barkov and Huberdeau, reading the play beautifully to intercept the pass. Virtually every game, he's proven a valuable addition, and one of the few bright spots the Habs can take pride in during this dismal season.

Montreal's best attempt of the period saw a rebound squirt to Phillip Danault, only to be denied on a remarkable athletic save by Montoya.

Montreal's porous defense allowed the first goal, but the lapse should be pinned on the forwards. A four-on-two for Florida led to Vincent Trocheck scoring his 21st to put the Cats on the score sheet.

Mike Brown and Shawn Thornton got into a fight; it was not very interesting, but it gave those two something to do, and I suppose that's a positive for them. The Habs had made up some ground following the Florida goal, but the shots still favoured the visitors 15-11 after the first.

Early in the second, Alex Galchenyuk took a four minute high sticking penalty, only to have Florida take a tripping minor moments later. Unfazed, Nick Bjugstad batted a puck out of the air to increase the Florida lead to two after the Panthers' penalty had expired.

The second period was all Panthers. Vincent Trocheck, recovering from having his teeth broken by Galchenyuk, wrapped around Montreal's net and centered the puck to Jiri Hudler, who scored to put Florida up by three. Condon's cross-crease movement was lacking and Dietz was sloppy on his coverage, but honestly, neither of those players should be suiting up for the Habs to begin with. It's hard to blame them for being outplayed by a strong Florida squad.

Following up a strong shift from the fourth line, Alex Galchenyuk - who else? - walked in and ripped a wrister past a screen to beat Montoya, and get Montreal on the board, making it 3-1. Max Pacioretty gathered the primary assist on the play, drawing in the defenders before dishing to 27.

In the third, Mike McCarron stepped in to fight Garrett Wilson after Wilson put up Alex Emelin with a very Emelin-like hit. In a game where Montreal looked fairly lifeless, it's understandable McCarron would be looking to boost the team and prove himself, but doing so after a legal hit isn't a good look.

Montreal pressed with a few good chances in the third, but this one was pretty well set after the second goal. Aleksander Barkov would make it 4-1 on a beautiful feed from Huberdeau, who danced around Alex Emelin to set up his line mate.

The teams would trade chances until the finish, but the game brought no surprises: the good team beat the bad team, the established NHLers beat the injury-riddled call-ups, and Montreal lost another game. The Canadiens don't have time to dwell on the loss as they'll face Buffalo on Wednesday night.

Thoughts

  • Lucas Lessio was a spark plug in the first, following up on his own rebounds on a few occasions and looking like the best skater the Habs had in the period. It was a refreshing sight for the Habs, who have otherwise been lacking jump in the bottom six, and Lessio's play has been a welcome injection of energy.
  • Halfway through the second period, the Canadiens were being out shot 7-1. The announcers mused that the rest of Montreal's season "may be difficult." It was the only time I smiled all game.
  • According to Sportsnet, the only Habs to play every game this season are Markov, Plekanec, Pacioretty and Galchenyuk.
  • After the fourth Florida goal, it occurred to me that Montreal was playing like a team that knew the game was over, but I think I was mistaken. This is a team that knows its season is over, and it's hard for even the youth to get their energy up to play out the string.