How to watch
Start time: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Panthers region: FOX Sports Florida
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
On the morning of March 19 — last Tuesday — the Canadiens woke up finding themselves three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Coming off consecutive losses to the New York Islanders and the Chicago Blackhawks, and with their season on the brink, the Habs desperately needed something to turn around versus the Philadelphia Flyers.
Little did they know that a 3-1 victory that night would be the start of a stretch of four games where they would take seven of eight points. Combined with the Blue Jackets dropping decisions in Calgary and Edmonton, the Habs now find themselves the beneficiaries of a five-point swing, currently sitting two points up on Columbus while having played an extra game.
What a difference a week makes.
Perhaps more importantly is how the Canadiens have pulled off this turnaround. A week ago, the concern was that the team had, whether by design or because they were out of gas, abandoned the speed and aggression that had brought them this far at precisely the wrong time. Now, after renewed efforts against the Flyers, Islanders, Sabres, and even a Carolina Hurricanes team that has been red-hot in 2019, fans can, to paraphrase the words of Marc Dumont, welcome back the fun Habs.
Tale of the Tape
|54.0% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||49.7% (14th)|
|2.96 (16th)||Goals per game||3.22 (9th)|
|2.88 (11th)||Goals against per game||3.37 (29th)|
|12.6% (31st)||PP%||27.3% (2nd)|
|80.8% (15th)||PK%||80.3% (18th)|
That having been said, the resurgence from the last week will all be for naught if the Canadiens fail to deliver results in their next two games. First up are the Florida Panthers, who dealt the Habs a stinging defeat during their last meeting. Despite Antti Niemi allowing three goals on nine shots and being pulled after 13:57 of action, the Canadiens clawed their way back, eventually leveling the score five minutes into the second frame on Max Domi’s 19th marker of the season.
And then Brett Kulak’s dump-in failed to go deep ... and then Victor Mete missed a neutral zone poke check ... and then Aleksander Barkov was off to the races.
The end result — a 6-3 loss — in no way reflected the competitive balance between the two teams, and the Habs likely felt that they had surrendered two points rather than that Florida had earned them.
While not mathematically eliminated from contention, the Panthers realistically ended their playoff drive a week and a half ago with consecutive road losses to the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars. Given that their opposition is both playing only for pride and arriving in town on the back of a shellacking at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs the previous evening, the home team will be hoping for both a different performance and a different outcome than in their last meeting. With all due respect to the Finnish veteran, the fact that Niemi will not be in the net for the Tricolore should go a long way toward ensuring that.