Canadiens vs Panthers: Game preview, start time, and TV schedule

Only days removed from an epic collapse, can the Habs rebound against the same opponent?

Only two nights ago, the Montreal Canadiens played a great half-game before suffering an epic collapse. Now, even further undermanned, they'll try to play a whole one.

To do that, the Canadiens will need the one big advantage they had last game. The newly-minted first line of Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, and Brendan Gallagher were as-advertised, and Montreal's most consistent offensive force. Together, they generated just under half of Montreal's scoring chances for the game.

Of course, the Habs will need to find a way to slow down Florida's big guns, too. The Canadiens defence is laughably undermanned, and adding John Scott to the mix won't help them slow down a top Florida line that ran rampant on Saturday night. Aleksander Barkov and Co. destroyed all comers, with none of the Habs' top line, top pair, or even a trio of defensive centres able to slow them down.

With none of P.K. Subban, Jeff Petry, or Nathan Beaulieu available, the Habs will likely be unable to neutralize Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Jaromir Jagr. Perhaps, though, the likes of Lars Eller, Tomas Plekanec, and Torrey Mitchell can do enough to make another three Canadiens' goals stand up.

How to Watch

Start time: 7:30 PM ET
In the Canadiens region (French): RDS
In the Canadiens region (English): Sportsnet East
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Panthers
36-37-6 Record 44-25-9
4-6-0 L10 Record 6-4-0
51.2 Score-Adjusted Corsi % 49.2
211 Goals For 225
228 Goals Against 194
0.96 5v5 Goal Ratio 1.23
16.2 PP% 17.0
82.0 PK% 80.1

*All stats before Monday night's games.

Know Your Enemy

While the Habs will look to avoid a repeat of Saturday night's effort, the Panthers will look to tighten their grasp on the Atlantic Division. Starting the week two points up and with a game in-hand over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Cats control their own destiny. With recent, freak injuries to both Anton Stralman and Steven Stamkos, the likelihood of the Lightning overtaking Florida is quickly diminishing. That said, a Florida victory this evening would go a long way toward cementing home-ice through two rounds.

With nothing left for his opponent to play for, Gerard Gallant will know that his team will start the night with the advantage. However, if there is one piece of tactical insurance he would be wise to invest in, it may be keeping his third line away from the Canadiens' top unit.

Rocco Grimaldi, Jiri Hudler, and Teddy Purcell were victimized for the Canadiens' first goal when they couldn't get a defensive zone clearance, and each player ended the night with some his team's worst possession numbers. If Gallant can ensure that weak spot isn't overexposed, he should be able to rely on the effortless dominance of Florida's top-six to do the rest.

Last Time Out

For the first 30 minutes or so, last time out, the game looked like anything but a dominant Florida performance. Gallagher opened the scoring, his goal the culmination of a string of Montreal chances.

David Desharnais got another in the second, completing an odd-man rush, and then Mitchell did the same. Minutes later, the cracks began to show.

With the Desharnais/Sven Andrighetto/Paul Byron line out for a defensive zone draw, the Panthers got hold of the puck behind the goal-line. All five Habs collapsed into a shell around Condon, but no forward stuck with Barkov when he ventured just outside the protective pentagon, leaving him free to zap a one-timer past Condon.

Barkov struck again before the period was out, again taking advantage of Canadiens defensive group that was physically but not mentally present. Nick Bjugstad took a lap of the Canadiens zone before firing the puck from a tough angle. Condon stopped that attempt, but his teammates were unable to take possession of the rebound. Aaron Ekblad retrieved the disc and forced another Condon save, but Barkov was there to bang home his second of the night.

Bjugstad would then engineer the tying goal, breaking down the Habs penalty kill box from the left side. Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov were fully prepared to concede a acute-angle backhander from the centreman, but not at all prepared for him to thread a perfect seam pass. The beneficiary was Huberdeau, who was not contested as he put-home the game-tyer.

And all of that set the stage for Barkov, who would complete his hat-trick with seconds to go in the game. Trailed by Galchenyuk, he passed through the slot and with uncanny skill, tipped a shot through Condon's pads for the game-winner.

Just like that, it appeared the collapse was complete. Tonight, we'll see if that statement proves true, or if the free-fall still has another 60 minutes to go.

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