When Phil Varone jumped over the boards in the shootout, it may have been the only time he had a scoring chance all game.
The veteran made the most of it, beating Samuel Montembault and solidifying the Montreal Canadiens’ 5-4 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at the Bell Centre. It was Montreal’s third straight win as they move to 3-0 in the pre-season.
Nick Suzuki and Jordan Weal also scored for the Canadiens in the shootout. Carey Price saved one of the two Panthers shots.
The Canadiens got off to a quick start with Weal opening the scoring with a weak effort past Montembault just 61 seconds into the game. Eight seconds later, Montreal went to the power play, but they could not capitalize. Their power play went 0/2 in the game.
Despite controlling the play with a 13-6 shot advantage, Montreal ended the period tied 1-1 as Owen Tippett scored with under six minutes left in the period.
The Panthers started the second period with two quick goals to open a 3-1 lead. Anthony Greco and Jonathan Ang scored only 1:13 apart within the first three minutes of the period. Like they did the night before in New Brunswick, the Canadiens fought back.
Brendan Gallagher, playing his first pre-season game of the year alongside Max Domi and Artturi Lehkonen, scored his first of two goals just a few minutes later to start the Montreal comeback.
Gallagher drove to the net and put home the Lehkonen pass.
Montreal continued pressing for the equalizer with many scoring chances coming from the line of Suzuki, Weal, and Paul Byron and Alex Belzile, Lukas Vejdemo, and Alexandre Alain.
Montembault recovered from a shaky start in his home province to keep the Panthers slim lead despite his team being outshot 14-3 in the period. In all, Montreal would out chance the Panthers 29-5 on the night at even strength.
The Canadiens tied the game 12:29 into the second period. Jordan Weal took a hit to get the puck to Nick Suzuki who had a two-on-one with Brett Kulak. Suzuki made a perfect pass to Kulak who made no mistake with the shot.
With the game tied, Montreal wouldn’t stop there. Gallagher scored his second goal of the period when Lehkonen secured the puck along the boards, turn and fire a perfect pass to Gallagher in the slot less than three minutes after Kulak’s equalizer.
The third period was more of the same with Montreal dominating the game at even strength. Belzile, Alain and Vejdemo continued to create chances, but could not convert. The Panthers scored the only goal of the period midway through the third when Brett Connolly redirected a pass past Price on the power play.
The Canadiens had a few chances to end the game late in the period, as did the Panthers but the game went to overtime.
Both teams went back and forth in overtime, both holding possession for a while at three-on-three. A shootout was needed.
Suzuki and Vincent Trocheck traded goals. Weal scored for Montreal and Price stopped Frank Vatrano before Varone’s clinching goal.
Montreal returns to game action on Saturday in Ottawa when they take on the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre. The team is expected to make their first cuts from training camp on Friday with Laval Rocket camp looming.