Four days after Christmas and on the eighth night of Hanukkah, the gifts were being handed out all over the place as the Montreal Canadiens lost to the Florida Panthers 6-5 on Sunday night at BB&T Center in Sunrise. That is, of course, unless you were a goaltender. They received lumps of coal taking the shape of almost 150 pieces of vulcanized rubber fired at them.
After the Canadiens took a 3-2 lead early in the third period, the Florida Panthers scored four straight goals, including Jonathan Huberdeau scoring two goals in 35 seconds to turn a 3-3 game into a 5-3 game entering the third period.
Montreal had a much worse start to the game than they did on Saturday night, falling behind 2-0 early. Noel Acciari pounced on a loose puck that Carey Price lost track of and the defence couldn’t clear to make it 1-0 4:34 into the game.
Just less than two minutes later, Ryan Poehling blocked a shot off his stick which broke it. He went to play the puck, and it caused a turnover right to Aleksandr Barkov who put a backhand past Price to make it 2-0.
The Canadiens fought back and make it a 2-1 game before the first intermission. On a power play, Nick Suzuki made a clever spinning backhand pass to Jeff Petry who found Tomas Tatar at the circle who fired a puck past Sergei Bobrovsky.
If the Canadiens struggled to start the first period, they turned that around to start the second period. After both teams took penalties early in the period, just 1:20 into the frame, Suzuki created a turnover and found Petry. The defenceman walked into the slot taking advantage of the extra space that the four-on-four afforded him.
While the four-on-four play continued, Max Domi gave the Canadiens their first lead of the game. Less than a minute after Petry’s goal, Domi made a similar play where he walked into the slot and fired a shot past Bobrovsky.
Suzuki continued his strong play, as he earned a third straight assist on Domi’s goal.
The lead was short-lived as about 1:30 after Domi took the lead, the Panthers tied it up at 3-3. A mess of defensive coverage couldn’t deal with the Panthers movement as Huberdeau earned his second assist of the game and Barkov scored his second on tic-tac-toe passing.
Both teams traded chances with the game tied, trying to take the lead. There wasn’t much resistance to either team’s offensive charge.
The Huberdeau show started shortly thereafter, to the dismay of the Canadiens. After earning two assists, he showed his scoring ability and gave the Panthers a 4-3 lead. He was trying to pass to Barkov at the side of the net, but Phillip Danault’s stick collided with Huberdeau’s. The puck then bounced off of Ben Chiarot’s skate and directly into the net.
Thirty-five seconds later, he was sprung on a rush on the left wing by Barkov and fired a perfect shot past Price to make it 5-3 as the Canadiens couldn’t account for the Panther’s top line.
Entering the third period, the Canadiens were outshooting the Panthers 25-21 and had to have felt good about their ability to come back. However, just 45 seconds into the period Michael Matheson fired a shot toward the net that hit off of Shea Weber and deflected past Price and suddenly it was a 6-3 deficit.
Montreal continued to fight back. Just over four minutes into the period, the Canadiens got another power play goal. After a couple of shots were blocked, the puck fell to Jesperi Kotkaniemi who fired the puck past Bobrovsky for his second goal in as many games since returning from his injury.
The chances kept coming. After Montreal put pressure on the Florida defence, the puck found Ben Chiarot in the slot but Bobrovsky made a sprawling glove save to keep it a two-goal game in what was his best save of the night.
Like Saturday night, the Canadiens scored another late goal to cut the deficit to one. Shea Weber blasted a shot past the Panthers goaltender with the goaltender pulled to make it 6-5 with 1:52 remaining in the game.
It was too little, too late. The Canadiens had some offensive zone time in the final 1:52 but never really got close to tying the game up.
Montreal now has a day off on Monday before finishing off 2019 in Carolina as they face the Hurricanes on New Year’s Eve.