A late push in the third period was not enough for the Florida Panthers as they lost to the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 last night at the Bell Centre in Montreal. It was the Panthers first loss in three games against Montreal this season.
Despite being outplayed for two periods, the Panthers found themselves down only 2-1 entering the games’ final frame. The Canadiens stifled the Panthers attack for forty minutes allowing on 11 shots on net but the Panthers came alive in the third and fired 16 shots on Montreal netminder Carey Price. Price answered the bell in a big way as he kept the Panthers off the scoresheet in the third, preserving his team’s 2-1 lead.
Both goaltenders were stellar as Tim Thomas kept his team in the game stopping 33 of 35 shots while Price made the saves when he had to stopping 26 of 27.
The Canadiens jumped out to an early lead in the first when David Desharnais slipped a puck under Tim Thomas’ outstretched pad at 6:23 into the first period. It was the Canadiens first shot of the game. Montreal dominated the rest of the first period outshooting Florida 13-5 but the Panthers managed to make one of their few shots count at 17:09 into the first when Sean Bergenheim finished off a nice passing play with his line mates Aleksander Barkov and Brad Boyes.
The Killer B’s, as they have come to be known, had struck again. Bergenheim’s goal was his tenth of the season and he now has six goals in his last six games. The assists for Barkov and Boyes stretched their point streaks to six and four games respectively. For Barkov, his six game point streak (1-6-7) ties a franchise rookie record held by Kristen Huselius (2001) and Jesse Belanger (1993). Barkov has been playing lights out at the perfect time as the announcement of Team Finland’s Olympic roster should come sometime today.
The Canadiens continued to take the game to the Panthers in the second period as they outshot Florida 12-6. The Panthers managed to keep the game close as they only allowed one goal in the period which came at 15:46 when an Ed Jovanovski turnover behind the Panthers net turned into an open look for Brian Gionta who finished with ease. Gionta’s goal would be the game winner as the teams played a scoreless third despite a ferocious Panthers attack in the final stanza.
Head coach Peter Horachek reshuffled the lines in the third cutting down his offensive rotation to mostly three lines. One of the big changes Horachek made was moving Jonathan Huberdeau and Drew Shore onto a line centered by Nick Bjugstad. The newly formed trio looked potent in the third and could be a good choice for the Panthers moving forward. The Killer B’s stayed together in the third while Tomas Fleischmann played on a line with Marcel Goc and Tomas Kopecky. Shawn Matthias, Krys Barch and Scottie Upshall saw very limited time in the final twenty minutes.
The loss snapped a three game point streak for the Panthers and it dropped their record to 16-21-6. Montreal improved their point total to 55 with the win and in doing so leapfrogged the idle Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Panthers will continue their three game road trip Thursday when they will take on the Buffalo Sabres before finishing the trip on Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.