Montreal Canadiens 16-5-4 (36 pts) at Florida Panthers 7-12-6 (20 pts)
A tough test awaits the Florida Panthers tonight at 6 pm when they face the Eastern Conference leading Montreal Canadiens in the second game of a three game home stand. Florida dropped the first game against the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in overtime. Florida went down 2-0 early on Friday night against the Jets. Goalie Jacob Markstrom allowed a goal on the Jets first shot one night after allowing two goals on the Washington Capitals’ first two shots in Florida’s 7-1 loss Thursday in Washington. While Markstrom was pulled from the game Thursday, head coach Kevin Dineen kept him in the game Friday and Markstrom shut the door the rest of regulation allowing Florida to comeback and send the game to overtime. Jonathan Huberdeau (12) and Shawn Matthias (6) scored for the Panthers. Huberdeau has now scored in all four match ups against the Jets this year. Dustin Byfuglien scored the overtime winner for the Jets on a play where he split the Panther Tomas duo as Fleischmann and Kopecky seemed unable to do anything other than wave their sticks at the big defender.
The Montreal Canadiens are coming off a stunning 4-3 win in Tampa Bay Saturday night in which they scored three third period goals to go ahead of the Lightning after being down 3-1 after two periods. Wins like that are what separates the best teams in the league from the mediocre ones. Montreal is 6-1-3 in their last 10 games but the Panthers are lucky to be facing the Canadiens at a time when the team is probably dead tired. Not only is Montreal playing the second game of a back to back, but they are playing the last game of a five game road trip. Counting tonights game a a home game against the Penguins the day before their road trip began, the Canadiens will have played six games in nine days. If there was ever a game that would be a schedule loss, tonight would be the one.
Tonight will be the third and final match ups between these teams. The Canadiens have won both previous games, 4-1 in Montreal Jan. 22 and 1-0 in Florida on Valentines day. Tomas Kopecky scored the only Panther goal in the two games while Carey Price stifled the Panthers attack in both games stopping 53 of 54 total shots faced in the two games combined. Price is a big reason for the Canadiens success this season as he has started 20 of the Canadiens’ 25 game this season and has a .910 SV% and a 2.37 GAA.
Pre Game Points:
- The Canadiens have been a scoring by committee team with no one player standing out statistically. Max Pacioretty leads the team with 21 points (8 goals, 13 assists) and Tomas Plekanec leads the team with 11 goals. The Canadiens have 11 players who have recorded 10 or more points with Pacioretty the only player to crack 20. The Canadiens are dangerous up and down the lineup and do not have one just one player that teams need to focus on.
- The Panthers continued their struggles in post regulation play. They are 1-6 in games that are tied after sixty minutes with their only win coming in a shoot out against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Panthers are 1-1 in shootouts and 0-5 in overtime. Five out of the six Panther extra time losses have come at home.
- The Florida Panthers have not scored a power play goal in their last five games but that stat is not as bad as it looks at first glance. In those five games, the Panthers power play is 0 for 10 which is still not good but shows that the Panthers have just not had a lot of time on the man advantage recently.
- Two Panthers to watch: Jonathan Huberdeau has four goals in his last four games and Shawn Matthias has three points in his last three (2 goals, 1 assist).
Enjoy the game tonight, and don’t forget to follow us on twitter @fansidedtherat