Given all that went on for John Scott during this NHL season, you had to hand it to the Canadiens for calling him up to play one last game in the show. There is a good chance that he has played his last professional hockey game, and it was a great way to send him off. It was simply up to the Habs to make it a memorable one.
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And they deserved the win, but it was not meant to be. Montreal held the balance of play for nearly the entire game, but just couldn't find the back of the net. At the other end, Florida had seemingly no trouble doing so, and they rode that shooting luck wave to a convincing victory.
It all started a mere 10 seconds into the first period, when Aleksander Barkov coasted into the Canadiens zone, and fired a seemingly harmless shot on Mike Condon. The latter seemed to have no feel for where that shot was going, and it found it's way into the net, giving the Panthers the lead early.
The Canadiens nearly responded in kind when John Scott sprung Paul Byron on a breakaway, but Roberto Luongo made the save. They continued to pressure the Panthers early on, and David Desharnais drew a penalty in the process. A hooking call against Jakub Kindl put Montreal on the power play, but they were unable to generate much with their lackluster special teams unit.
Though the power play did slow their momentum, the Canadiens picked up right where they dropped off once play returned to even strength. They peppered Luongo, controlled possession with ease, and managed to outshoot the Panthers 14-7 in the first frame. Even Scott himself managed to make his presence felt with a big hit.
Less than a minute into the second period, Lars Eller was tripped by Brian Campbell to put Montreal on the man advantage yet again. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, they couldn't muster a single shot on net during that time. Florida's lack of discipline would go on to give Montreal three more power plays before the end of the second.
Though the Canadiens couldn't capitalize on Steven Kampfer's tripping penalty, they were able to take full advantage of a holding call that went against Aaron Ekblad a little over halfway through the period. Alex Galchenyuk was able to convert a beautiful tic-tac-toe play with linemates Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty, and all of a sudden the game was tied at one.
Later in the period, Brendan Gallagher was sent off on a questionable goaltender interference penalty, and Florida's power play unit got to work. Nick Bjugstad would score with less than 12 seconds left in the period, and his power play marker would restore Florida's lead. Despite outshooting the Panthers to a tune of 13-4, the Canadiens entered the third period down a goal yet again.
With Darren Dietz being sent off for tripping Rocco Grimaldi, Montreal also started the third period on the penalty kill. They had no trouble killing it off, but they failed to prevent Greg McKegg from scoring shortly after the penalty was killed.
The teams continued to exchange chances throughout the third period, before John Scott took a high-sticking penalty with around six minutes to play. Condon made a couple of great saves to deny the Panthers another goal, and with less than five seconds left in Florida's power play, Nick Bjugstad returned the favour. He high-sticked Lars Eller, giving the Canadiens one last chance to get back in the game.
Coach Michel Therrien pulled Condon for a 6-on-4 opportunity for the Habs, but they were unable to pull within one. To make matters worse, Daniel Carr was called for hooking on Brian Campbell. Jiri Hudler had no trouble beating Condon on the ensuing power play, and the Panthers would walk away with a 4-1 win.
- The less said about Montreal's power play, the better. The Canadiens ended the night scoring one power play goal on six opportunities, and ended up generating a grand total of seven shots on net throughout. The Habs now posses the 25th ranked power play in the league, one which scores on a mere 16.2% of its opportunities.
- Mike Condon did not look good out there. He gave up four goals on 19 shots, and posted a .789 SV% in the process. The first and last goals that he gave up were brutal. While slack must be cut for the rookie goaltender, he needs to string together better performances. In the months of March and April, Condon has had a less than .900 SV% in seven of the 11 games he has started.
- Alex Galchenyuk is the only reason to continue watching the Habs right now. The young centre now leads the Canadiens with 28 goals, and sits second in points with 53 (just 6 points back of captain Max Pacioretty). More impressively, Galchenyuk continues to stay out of the box, having accrued only 9 minor penalties all season long. With two games remaining, let's see if he can hit 30 goals for the first time in his career.
- After the game, John Scott commended the Canadiens organization and their class in putting him in for this game. "I don't deserve any of this," he said. Except that he did, because the way he had been treated this year was deplorable. Kudos to him for taking everything in stride, and best wishes to him in the future.
- The Canadiens really did deserve this game. They outshot the Panthers 33-19, and out-attempted them 61-34. On almost every night, these statistical realities yield a win. For once, it would be hard to say that they weren't the better team on the night, and frankly they did do their best for a better result.