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Canadiens vs. Panthers Recap: Playoff bound with style

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The Canadiens punched their ticket to the playoffs with a 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Brendan Gallagher registered a four point game was... never.

On Thursday night, Gallagher, along with a number of his teammates, would combine for six goals to stamp the Canadiens’ ticket into the playoffs with a dominant 6-2 win in which five players registered multipoint games.

The Canadiens opened the scoring 7:24 into the first period with Alexei Emelin stopping an errant pass on the Panthers’ blue line as the Canadiens were on the attack in the offensive zone and then instantly making a backhand pass to Nathan Bealieu in free space. Beaulieu’s dish to Brendan Gallagher would go to none other than Paul Byron wristing home a rolling puck for his 21st goal of the season to get scoring started.

Less than three minutes later, the Habs got the Bell Centre crowd on their feet again, this time with Tomas Plekanec benefiting from a perfect set-up by Brendan Gallagher who found him with a pass as he streaked towards the net to score his ninth of the season.

Paul Byron’s speed is one thing, his ability to play fast is another. The Canadiens took a 3-0 lead off a rush with Nathan Beaulieu driving wide into the zone as Byron crashed the net with speed and deflected a perfect pass off his stick and into the net for the 22nd time this season.

The second period was a quiet affair until the Panthers drew two penalties in a row at the seven-minute mark, first with Max Pacioretty sent off for roughing, and then Shea Weber for slashing. The Panthers threw five shot attempts and three shots on net Carey Price’s way but were unable to convert.

But moments after the five on three expired, the Panthers got on the board on a hot shot by Reilly Smith who whipped a low wrist show through Carey Price’s pads to make it 3-1.

Alexei Emelin continued to make his presence felt with a ferocious hit on Panthers’ captain Derek MacKenzie. The hit drew the ire of Shawn Thornton who jumped in to defend his captain. In the end the Canadiens ended up a man down after the skirmish, with Steve Ott penalized and assessed a ten minute misconduct for his involvement in the post-whistle shenanigans.

The Canadiens killed the penalty, and got back to work, ending the period with a 22-21 edge in shots on goal and 44-38 lead in shot attempts.

The Canadiens regained their three-goal lead 3:52 into the third period when Alex Radulov and Max Pacioretty broke in alone on a clearcut two-on-one. With enough time to slow things down, Alex Radulov held onto the puck and made a pass at the last second with both goalie and defenseman committed to him so that Max Pacioretty could pot his 35th goal of the season.

The Panthers cut the Habs’ lead to two goals after Nathan Beaulieu lost track of the puck against VincentTrochek who fed it to the front of the net and found Michael Matheson who beat Carey Price to make it a 4-2 game.

Brendan Gallagher gave the Habs their second three-goal lead of the game with just over seven minutes to play, after Brandon Davidson sent a shot from the point towards the net as Gallagher stood between the hashmarks, deflecting the puck for his second goal and fourth point of the game.

Moments later the Canadiens made it 6-2 as Alex Radulov drew his man behind the Panthers’ net and fed Phillip Danault who barrelled into open ice in the slot and buried a shot for his 12th goal of the season.

Thoughts:

  • The Canadiens looked ready for the playoffs. With five players registering a multipoint game, and nine players in total registering points, this game was at the very least an excellent confidence builder and concrete example of dominating a game a couple of weeks before the start of the playoffs.
  • Brendan Gallagher was his old self. His game is very simple, so when it isn’t working it’s easy to get frustrated with him when he doesn’t produce. When he does produce, we get to see why it’s what makes him successful. With five points in his past two games including three goals and the game-winner Tuesday against Dallas, Gallagher is looking like the threat we expect him to be every time he hits the ice, and that has to put a Gallagher-like smile on your face heading into the post-season.
  • All aboard for the playoffs! It matters the Canadiens punched their ticket to the playoffs this way. A win is a win, but this is a team that has won games by barely scoring two goals and holding on to win 2-1. Instead of doing that, they stamped their way into the playoffs with a dominant 6-2 victory.