One step forward, one – and sometimes a few – steps back. That’s been the story of the first eight games of the season for the Panthers, and Tuesday night in Montreal was no different.
Only a few nights removed from a 4-1 victory over the Capitals, the Panthers were handed 5-1 loss by the Canadiens who snapped a 7-game losing streak en route to their first home victory of the season and first in regulation.
Entering the game, Montreal was the only team in the league with less than two wins and owned the worst goal differential at an abysmal -20.
The Panthers entered with the third-highest shots per game average at 37.6 and 9th-best goals-for per game average at 3.43, just behind the second-ranked Canadiens, but none of that mattered.
With Roberto Luongo (right hand injury) sidelined, James Reimer made his second straight start in net for the Panthers, stopping 31 of 37 shots to wrap up a span of four games played on the road in the last 5 total.
After a flurry of early chances by the top line in the 1st period, Keith Yandle got the Panthers on the board first for the third straight game with a bomb of a point shot in the 2nd period.
Late in the frame, a parade to the penalty box took control of the game away from the Panthers and handed it over to the Canadiens.
Alex Galchenyuk and Shea Weber scored power play goals within a minute and 28 seconds of each other to quickly take a 2-1 lead. Gallagher scored unassisted 17 seconds later to make it an up-hill climb for the Panthers heading into the final 20 minutes.
“I thought that stretch of 7, 8 minutes was the difference in the game,” said head coach Bob Boughner.
There’s something about the Panthers and 2nd periods that hasn’t worked out well in the early going.
They’ve now allowed 13 goals in the 2nd period through 8 games this season – which is the second-most in the NHL – compred to just six at the same point last season.
It’s also the third time in the last four games they’ve allowed at least 3 goals in the middle frame.
Shea Weber went on to notch his second marker of the night 9:11 into the 3rd period, and Max Pacioretty’s first goal since the Canadiens’ season opener on October 5th made it an insurmountable deficit for the Panthers.
The Panthers went o/2 on the power play and on the penalty kill, which is now the second-worst in the NHL, denied the Canadiens’ first two opportunities before allowing two goals and losing the lead on the last two.
“I think the first half of the game, we played a solid road game,” said Boughner. “But again, this team’s gotta learn how to do that for 60 minutes. That’s probably the biggest task for us, is just to get this team to play the right way for 60 minutes.”
The Panthers open a five-game home-stand at the BB&T Center on Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks.
- Denis Malgin made his season debut for the Panthers after sitting out as a healthy scratch for the first 7 games of the season. He centered Nick Bjugstad and Connor Brickley on the 3rd line.
- Colton Sceviour (upper body) did not play, while Jared McCann and Roberto Luongo are on the injured reserve.
- Alex Petrovic was scratched for the second consecutive game.
- Owen Tippett logged a season high 13:18 of ice time while Vincent Trocheck logged a season-low 16:27 as he skated under 21 minutes for the first time.
- Radim Vrbata logged a season-low 13:24 of ice time.
- Antti Niemi, claimed off waivers by the Panthers on Tuesday afternoon, did not dress.