Aleksander Barkov’s goal of the year candidate was the game-winning goal as the Florida Panthers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 on Sunday night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.
The goal of the night was scored by Barkov with 2:11 remaining in the second period. The goal gave the Panthers a 4-3 lead at the time. Barkov took the puck, and with Victor Mete chasing him, went through his legs before putting the puck over Carey Price.
The goal was demoralizing in many ways for the Canadiens, who lost for the third straight time in regulation for the first time this season, and for the fourth straight time overall. Antti Niemi started the game for Montreal, but lasted 13:57 after allowing three goals on nine shots.
Barkov got the scoring started 3:59 into the game, and the Panthers doubled the lead when Denis Malgin fired a shot over the glove of Niemi to make it 2-0. The shot should have been saved by Niemi, but to their credit the Canadiens fought back.
Max Domi scored his first of two in the game when he got in behind the Panthers defence. Tomas Tatar caused the turnover and found Domi, who made no mistake firing a perfect shot over James Reimer.
Just 53 seconds later, the Panthers restored their two goal lead. Frank Vatrano was left alone in the Canadiens zone, and his shot beat Niemi after the puck bounced around.
Before the first period ended, however, Montreal cut the gap again. Brendan Gallagher created a turnover and had a two-on-one. He also fired a perfect shot past Reimer, and made it a 3-2 game after the first period.
The Canadiens would come out strong in the second period, and had several chances to tie the game, but the Panthers defence and Reimer prevented them from tying the game,
They did eventually tie the game after Tatar created another turnover in the neutral zone. He got the puck to Domi, who made a beautiful play to get the puck into the zone and then found Mikey Reilly. Reilly would then put the puck back to a streaking Domi who made no mistake.
That was the closest that Montreal would come. Barkov’s second goal would be scored before the end of the period, and the third period saw more Panthers chances. Barkov would complete the hat trick 9:13 into the period when a two-on-one pass would be blocked by Jeff Petry, but go right back to him and Price was not able to get back across after anticipating the pass.
Montreal would pull Price with just over three minutes remaining, but they didn’t generate any chances. Riley Sheahan would score in the empty net to make it the 6-3 final.
Reimer made 28 saves for Florida, while Price made 24 saves in relief of Niemi. He kept the Canadiens in the game, and deserved a better fate but Barkov’s magic was too much.
Montreal now has to refocus as they head home for two games this week against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers before heading to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Saturday. The three games are very important as the Canadiens are battling all three teams for the playoffs.
- For the second straight game, the Canadiens had a tie game after 40 minutes fall apart in the third period. They had the possession advantage through two periods, especially after a dominant second, but by the end of the game, they lost it.
- The fourth line continues to be a work in progress. Charles Hudon did allow for the line to have some offensive zone time, but were still on the ice for more shots against than for. I think Hudon did enough to keep his spot in the lineup as he was the most noticeable of the trio.
- It was an uncharacteristically bad night for the pairing of Mete and Shea Weber, as they were the worst possession Canadiens on the night. They were pit against the Barkov line, and he was just too good no matter who the opponent was.
- We knew that the Canadiens would hit a tough point, and they seem to be in it right now. They are now in tight for the Eastern Conference Wild Card spots as they are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins and only a point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes with the Buffalo Sabres and Flyers lurking.