The Canadiens were undefeated at home, lost just 3 times all season, and Carey Price had won his last 13 games dating back to last season entering Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers, but both of those things changed by the time the final buzzer went off.
Montreal opened the scoring on the power play on a wicked snipe by Max Pacioretty after Jaromir Jagr skated off to the box just 24 seconds into the 1st period, and it didn’t take long for the Panthers to respond. Alex Petrovic tied things up with his first goal of the season when a bouncing puck in the low slot found its way to the top for a wrist shot that went 5-hole on Carey Price.
Kyle Rau gave the Panthers the lead shortly after when he put home an incredible between-the-legs, no-look pass from behind the net by Mike Matheson, giving the 24-year old his 2nd goal in as many games. In the 2nd period, David Desharnais took advantage of a miscommunication between Aaron Ekblad and Mark Pysyk deep in the offense zone by scoring all alone from the left face-off circle tying the game once again at 2.
The Panthers’ 3rd goal and 2nd lead came courtesy of Denis Malgin who skated through all 3 zones and shot the puck off a defender right in front of him before it bounced through the legs of Price. Brendan Gallagher caught Roberto Luongo, who made 34 saves, off guard with a shot from just above the goal line along the board, and the rebound sat in the blue paint where it was poked into the net by Paul Byron, evening things up at 3.
In overtime, the Panthers controlled possession and had tons of chances to end it. Jussi Jokinen had a mini breakaway away but was stopped, and Aleksander Barkov had an other-worldly opportunity as he came out from the corner and tried a between-the-legs shot as he pass through the slot. Aaron Ekblad eventually unloaded a slap shot which broke the stick of Alex Galchenyuk, and when he went off for a new one, it left the Panthers with a brief 3-on-2 advantage. Ekblad took another slap shot, and this time, it broke his stick as the puck deflected off a Canadiens’ skate in the slot and to the right of Price’s pad.
The goal gave the Panthers their 4th overtime victory this season on their 4th opportunity, and not only that, but Ekblad became the 4th different player to score the winning goal and the 4th to do so for the first time in his career.
“Weird goals were going in,” said Ekblad. “And on the flip side of that, both goalies were making saves that you can only fathom in your dreams.”
Overall, this is yet another big win for the Panthers who look to be finally headed in the right direction after a couple of weeks of error-prone hockey. Although they didn’t have a great 2nd period again and blew a 1-goal lead in the 3rd, the team’s overall defensive play has improved bit by bit over the past few games, and they’re beginning to get some scoring from other areas.
“It was a huge game for us,” said Luongo. “We knew coming into this buildiing that it wasn’t gonna be easy, so we stuck with it, we weathered the storm in the 2nd, and we got a big goal in OT there.”
Seth Griffith made his Panthers debut tonight in place of Jared McCann after being claimed off waivers from Toronto on Saturday, and he made an impact right away. Griffith was hard on the forecheck all game long and had several chances in the offensive zone while being in position at the other end of the ice. He nearly scored in the 2nd when a check he made along the boards freed the puck up for Denis Malgin who then sent him a pass at the side of the crease, but he was handcuffed and couldn’t get a full shot off. Later in the period, Griffith made a nice behind-the-back pass to Malgin who then left the defensive zone and scored.
Tonight’s game was the first of a 4-game road trip for the Panthers who will head to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Thursday night. The Leafs defeated the Predators on Tuesday night with some help from James van Riemsdyk who recorded his 2nd career hat-trick, as well as Mitchell Marner, Leo Komarov, and William Nylander who eached scored once.
Nick Bjugstad won’t be in the lineup on Thursday, but he could make his season debut this weekend in Ottawa or New York after breaking his hand in an October preseason game. The Panthers lost to the Leafs on October 27th by a score of 3-2 with the lone Florida goals coming from Jonathan Marchessault.