The Montreal Canadiens lost 2-0 to the Florida Panthers on Monday night, and have now been shut out by their Atlantic Division opponnent for a third consecutive time this season. Montreal hasn’t scored a goal against Florida since Oct. 24, in a 5-1 win.
Monday night’s contest was also the 12th time the Canadiens were shut out in 2017-18.
The game got off to a chippy start as both teams combined for 38 penalty minutes in the opening period. Nicolas Deslauriers got the fight party started six minutes into the game, and chose Aaron Ekblad as a dance partner after the Panthers defenceman clipped teammate Charles Hudon in the face. Deslauriers was given a 10-minute misconduct, a five-minute major, and a two-minute penalty for instigating, and Ekblad was given a five-minute major and a two-minute minor for elbowing.
The Panthers are fighting for their playoff lives and Hockey Twitter, seemingly in unison, believed Ekblad's actions weren't smart considering the circumstances.
Nicolas Deslauriers just got Aaron Ekblad to spend five minutes in the penalty box.— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) March 19, 2018
Aaron Ekblad - who has missed time with multiple concussions in his career already - just had to fight Nicolas Deslauriers because Hockey Reasons— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) March 19, 2018
Biggest game of the season for the Florida Panthers and Aaron Ekblad's getting into a fight with Nicolas Deslauriers after taking a dumb penalty on Charles Hudon. Not smart. None of it.— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) March 19, 2018
Two minutes later, Michael McCarron fought another of the Panthers' defencemen: Alex Petrovic. The Habs forward won his tilt and didn't spend more than the five minutes in the box.
Petrovic just eating McCarron's fists #Habs pic.twitter.com/ypEPCaOL4s— Shayne Pasquino (@shaynepasquino) March 20, 2018
Putting the poor decisions from the opening minutes behind him, Ekblad placed the Panthers up 1-0 with a nifty toe drag, embarrassing Jeff Petry in he process, who wasn't at his best on this night. The defenceman, who’s been pressed into top-pairing duty in the absence of Shea Weber, was a minus-two on Monday night.
Seventeen seconds later, Jacob de la Rose scored what looked to be a game-tying goal for the Canadiens. Alas, the goal was reviewed and Alex Galchenyuk was found to have been offside. Ekblad’s marker stood as the lone goal after 20 minutes.
No goals were scored in the second period, but the Panthers peppered Antti Niemi with 19 shots in the frame. Niemi was the Canadiens’ best player throughout the period, and the contest, as he kept the Panthers at bay for as long as he could.
In the third, the Panthers continued to deploy a barrage of shots on Niemi. They finally cracked him a second time, courtesy of Aleksander Barkov, as the Finn scored his 26th of the season.
Despite the close scoreline, the Habs faithful were annoyed with the team’s performance and started leaving the game early.
It's not like Habs are getting blown out. 2-0 with five min left and this place is just emptying out with every second pic.twitter.com/GdFp8ATRo2— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) March 20, 2018
Niemi ended the game with 38 saves on 40 shots, but he didn’t get any help offensively. The Canadiens now have just one win in their last nine games. If you’re looking for a silver lining from this contest, the Habs have nine games left in their season.
The Habs play again on Wednesday night, a road game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:00 PM EDT.