How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Panthers region: Fox Sports Florida
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
It turns out not having your top two finishers in the lineup makes it difficult to score goals. The Montreal Canadiens found it impossible to produce any offence on Thursday with 20-goal-scorers Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher out with injury and illness, respectively. The Tampa Bay Lightning employed a strong defensive strategy against a Habs team patched up with AHL players, forcing them mostly to the perimeter to attempt shots, ones that were easily handled by Andrei Vasilevskiy in net.
Any hopes of at least seeing a scoreline similar to the one we saw in late December were dashed quickly when you saw just how determined the Lightning were to their defensive game. They often take a loose approach to the play in their own zone, knowing the offence will usually get back anything given up, but perhaps there was carry-over from their previous game against the Boston Bruins, a game in which they fell by just a 2-1 score.
Even if the lockdown hadn’t been activated by the Lightning, the Habs would have had trouble scoring with the lineup they dressed, and that’s not going to be much different tonight. If Montreal wants a better chance versus the Florida Panthers, they need to find more creative ways to get the puck to the middle than they did while getting shut out for the first time this season.
Tale of the Tape
|54.5% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||49.7% (16th)|
|2.97 (17th)||Goals per game||3.31 (7th)|
|3.07 (17th)||Goals against per game||3.31 (29th)|
|18.2% (21st)||PP%||21.3% (10th)|
|78.4% (19th)||PK%||77.9% (21st)|
Like the Lightning did a couple of days ago, the Panthers enter this game on a cold stretch, holding a 1-4-2 record in their past seven games. Unlike the Lightning, that wasn’t preceded by a long winning streak. The last one of those the Panthers had came in the lead-up to the All-Star Game.
Since the league broke for the annual talent showcase in St. Louis, the Panthers have just five wins. Their 13 points in those 18 games are only more than the achievement of one other club: the
best team in the NHL dreadful Detroit Red Wings, who have added nine of their 37 points on the season.
It’s not just the result of some one-goal games going against them, as we’ve experienced much of this season from Montreal’s scorelines. Six of the losses Florida has been dealt over the period in question have come by at least three goals. Included in that total is the first game for Florida after the break: a loss to Montreal that set the tone for this extended slump, and disappointed Jeff Petry’s son Boyd as the Panthers failed to score a goal.
Other than on the members of his own family, Petry made quite an impression in that contest, assisting on all of the goals for the first four-point game of his career. He had three points in the first game of the season series as well, a high-scoring affair on December 29 that became one of those one-goal losses for the Habs.
A third multi-point effort versus the Panthers isn’t out of the question, and it will be up to Petry and some of the other veterans left in the lineup to be the catalysts on offence. They won’t face Sergei Bobrovsky in net tonight, but that may not be the good news getting to face a backup often is.
Bobrovsky is having an awful season with his new team, with a save percentage at just .900. As Florida played a very competitive game with Boston at the same time Montreal and Tampa Bay were playing on Thursday, it was Chris Driedger limiting the Bruins to just two goals. In nine starts this season, the 25-year-old has posted a mark of .932. He’s been confirmed as the starter again tonight, and may get a significant portion of the remaining games as the Panthers try to get back in the hunt to catch the lame Toronto Maple Leafs for the Atlantic Division’s third seed.