The Montreal Canadiens had a tall task ahead of themselves when they hosted the Florida Panthers, the top team in the league, and fought valiantly despite losing 4-3. The Panthers, who had all their Trade Deadline acquisitions in the lineup, including former Montreal Canadien Ben Chiarot, were primed and ready to take the fight to the Habs and had control of this game from the second minute to the end.
The game got off to a hot start, with the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers both scoring goals within the first minute of the game. Nick Suzuki accepted a beautiful cross-ice pass from Cole Caufield and wired a wrist shot from the circle to beat Spencer Knight on the powerplay for his 18th goal on the season just 29 seconds into the game. The Panthers quickly showed why they’re one of the best teams in the NHL, as they returned the favour to the Canadiens not seven seconds later with a precise strike from captain Alexander Barkov. Claude Giroux, who assisted on the goal, recorded his first point as a Panther in his very first shift.
The Panthers seemed to take full momentum from that moment and dominated the first period, doubling the Canadiens in shots and possession time. Goaltender Jake Allen did a stellar job keeping his team in the game by stopping 14 of the 15 shots he faced in the first period, but the number of shots eventually caught up to him in the second period.
The Panthers came out roaring at the beginning of the second period, pushing the pace and commanding possession right from the drop of the puck. Mason Marchment was able to take advantage of Corey Schueneman’s fall while going around the net to jump on a loose puck in the slot and score on his own rebound to give the Panthers the lead.
Despite the constant domination in shot attempts and scoring chances against them, the Canadiens continued to fight for every inch of ice in this game. Caufield missed the net on a clean breakaway, while Spencer Knight frustrated Rem Pitlick a few times point blank down low. It was finally Jake Evans who was able to break through the Panthers’ defence as he deflected an Alexander Romanov point shot passed Knight to tie the game at 2-2 at the six-minute mark of the second period.
This game was nothing if not ironic, as a minute later, former Montreal Canadiens Ben Chiarot sent a harmless wrist shot toward Jake Allen that Anthony Duclair deflected right at the crossbar-level for his career-high 25th goal of the season. That was Chiarot’s first point as a Panther in his first game, meaning that all of Florida’s Trade Deadline acquisitions (Giroux, Chiarot and Robert Hagg) had registered a point with their new team with less than half of the game gone by.
The game remained tight between the two teams well into the third period, as both teams continued trading chances and upping the physical play. However, the Florida Panthers would pull the rug out from under the Canadiens, as Sam Reinhart capitalized on the Canadiens’ lack of discipline in this game, as he put a heavy wrist shot past Allen to give the Panthers a commanding 4-2 lead.
However, as we’ve seen this season, since new head coach Martin St. Louis has taken over, this team has no quit when they’re down. Christian Dvorak rushed up the ice and found Paul Byron in front of the net all alone, and he didn’t miss his chance to pull the Canadiens within one goal of the Panthers with his third of the season. Despite a strong push to try and tie the game, Spencer Knight and the Panther’s defence were able to limit the Canadiens to the outside and never truly gave them a chance to tie the game.
It was an encouraging effort by the Canadiens against one of the league’s top teams, but ultimately wasn’T enough to help them secure the win against their divisional rival.
Here’s your MHN Postgame Poutine:
GOLD STAR: Jonathan Huberdeau – Huberdeau continued his torrid scoring pace to the season tonight, adding another two assists on Florida’s last two goals to help defeat the Canadiens in an eventful bout. Huberdeau made many highlight-reel plays and found his teammates no matter where they were on the ice, while being a solid possession player for the Panthers under pressure. He continues to prove why he is one of the premier players in this league, playing a well-rounded game and getting involved in goals that ultimately decided the outcome of this game.
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) March 22, 2022
TABARNAK: Corey Schueneman’s fall: The Canadiens had done a good job in warding off the Panthers during the first period, despite an onslaught of shots against. Unfortunately, the slightest mistake proved the most costly, as Corey Schueneman lost his balance when coming around the net and fell right before the right circle. Mason Marchment quickly jumped on the loose puck and was able to bank in his own rebound to give the Panthers the 2-1 lead with a minute into the second period.
TURNING POINT: Sam Reinhart’s powerplay goal- The Canadiens and Panthers traded opportunities throughout the third period, as Florida was holding on to a 3-2 lead. Due to an unfortunate penalty taken by Josh Anderson, the Panthers were awarded a powerplay, and the Panthers didn’t need much time to make the Canadiens pay. Sam Reinhart wired home his 24th of the season, giving the Panthers the 4-2 lead and a stranglehold on the game with 12 minutes left in the game.
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) March 24, 2022
HONORABLE MENTION: Alexander Romanov- Romanov continues to grow his game under Martin St. Louis, playing more and more minutes and taking more offensive opportunities by the game. He generated a good amount of shot attempts, one of which was deflected in for a goal by Jake Evans, while playing strong defence and logging the most amount of minutes among all defencemen for the Canadiens with over 22 minutes of TOI.
Belle redirection Jake!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) March 25, 2022
BY THE NUMBERS: Here’s how the Montreal Canadiens lined up Thursday night:really
Cole Caufield-Nick Suzuki– Mike Hoffman
Rem Pitlick-Jake Evans-Mike Hoffman
Paul Byron-Christian Dvorak-Joel Armia
Michael Pezzetta-Laurent Dauphin-Tyler Pitlick
Joel Edmundson-Jeff Petry
Alexander Romanov-David Savard
Corey Schueneman-Chris Wideman
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think everyone’s noticed the difference, even compared to last year.This year, he’s taken it to another level” – Joel Edmundson on the growth of Alexander Romanov’s game this season.