In his first game at the professional level, Sam Montembeault, Florida Panthers prospect goaltender, had a decent performance in goal.
Ever since he was drafted by the Florida Panthers in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft, goaltender Samuel Montembeault has been known as the future between the pipes for the Cats. Since then, he had played juniors in the QMJHL.
For the past two seasons, he had played for the Panthers’ AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds.
In his second stint in Springfield, the big boys needed some help after James Reimer went down with an injury. The time had finally come for Montembeault to make his NHL debut, in a Saturday night game against the seemingly unbeatable Carolina Hurricanes.
As he skated around the rink during warmups, you could only imagine what was going through the head of the young netminder.
Whether it was feelings of nervousness or anxiety, you knew the mind had to be spinning for him. He was finally playing in the big leagues, and it was up to him to keep the playoff hopes alive for the struggling Panthers team.
As the warmup period came to an end, it was time for the real deal. The kid from Quebec was going to step onto the ice for his first game in the NHL.
Finally, the puck had dropped, signaling that the game had begun. While you could only hope for the best, things could not have started out worse.
At 1:36 in the first period, the nightmares finally begun for the Cats, as they let up the first goal of the game.
While the opposing player was wide open, it was definitely a goal that the kid would want to have back.
If you thought the start for the Panthers couldn’t be any worse, you may have thought wrong. About forty seconds later, the puck was fed right in front of the net to a wide-open Greg McKegg, who doubled the Canes’ lead early on.
Once again, a player was left wide open in front of the net for Sam to deal with, making the goal, not his fault. The only place you could put your blame on was the defense for the Cats.
They were leaving players open with plenty of time to set up in the slot, allowing an easy path to beating the young goaltender.
After some time, the Panthers battled back and tied the game with a goal from Sam’s Thunderbird teammate, Henrik Borgström, and the first of the year for the Panthers’ stay-at-home defenseman, Mark Pysyk.
This put the Panthers back in the game at the end of the first period, giving Montembeault a fresh start for the second frame. If they had any chance to give the kid his first lead of the night, it was right now.
While there were no goals in the second period, the kid looked solid in net. He came out in an all around better way.
He was composed and collected, seeming as if he was used to playing at this level. If he could keep this play going into the third, the Panthers would have a real chance at winning a must-win game.
In the final frame of regulation, the Panthers took an early third-period lead with a goal scored once again by Borgström.
It was a great feed by Jamie McGinn to the wide-open Finnish forward in front. The Panthers had taken their first lead of the night, giving the young goaltender a cushion to work with.
But later in the period, as things seemed to have finally gone the Panthers’ way, the tables were suddenly turned.
The Hurricanes had evened the game at three, and the mistakes on defense for Florida continued to pile up as we continued.
The clock continued to run, to eventually hit zeroes across the scoreboard. Regulation had come to an end in South Florida, and it was time for some 3-on-3 overtime.
This was prime time hockey being played right now, and the kid who had played minor league hockey just one week ago was ready for the challenge.
If you had to describe how a typical Panther loss in overtime would be like, there’s nothing like what happened with the game against the Hurricanes.
Next up was Jonathan Huberdeau, who was all alone with speed ahead and whose five-hole shot was closed off to keep the game going.
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Lastly was Michael Matheson, whose backhand breakaway move was poked away by a sprawling Mrazek.
After the third Panthers breakaway was stopped in the overtime period, you knew something was going to go the other way.
The Hurricanes developed a 2-on-1 break with Keith Yandle being back for the Cats. As Yandle dove down and Montembeault stretched across, it wasn’t enough to keep the clock running as Sebastian Aho put the game in the books for the Canes.
This may have been the most exciting overtime the Panthers have played in this year, but it’s a shame that it had to finish this way, especially on Sam Montembeault’s debut.
On the game-winning goal by Aho, there was no chance for the Quebec native to stop it from entering the net, as he was all alone and did the best he could to stretch across and cover the net.
This was the fourth goal and fourth-time Montembeault was all alone to try to stop an open player, once again not being his fault.
Overall, while playing well throughout the game, the kid, unfortunately, let up four goals to lose to the Carolina Hurricanes.
While it was an exciting matchup, the Canes spoiled the chance to give the young goaltender his first win in the NHL.
Aside from the goals he let up to wide open players, Montembeault played well in goal, opening up for a future of improving himself between the pipes.