Panthers upend COVID-sapped Canadiens 5-2 for their third straight loss

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Montreal went into this game with 11 forwards and five defenceman — two below the NHL limit — as 14 players are in NHL COVID protocol.

Author of the article:

Pat Hickey  •  Montreal Gazette

Publishing date:

Jan 01, 2022  •  4 days ago  •  2 minute read  •  51 Comments Canadiens' Ryan Poehling (25) collides with Panthers' Radko Gudas (7) at FLA Live Arena on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, in Sunrise, Fla.Canadiens’ Ryan Poehling (25) collides with Panthers’ Radko Gudas (7) at FLA Live Arena on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, in Sunrise, Fla. Photo by Sam Navarro /USA TODAY Sports

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Samuel Montembeault, who was facing the team that placed him on waivers at the start of the season, kept the score close for a while, but the Florida Panthers exploited their edge in talent and firepower to defeat the Canadiens 5-2  in a Saturday matinée at FLA Live Arena.

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Montembeault stopped 43 shots, but the Panthers scored twice late in the second period to take a 3-2 lead and added two insurance goals in the third period.

The result was to be expected as the Panthers improved their NHL-best home record to 17-3-0, while Canadiens have the worst road record at 2-13-3.

Montreal went into this game with 11 forwards and five defenceman — two below the NHL limit — afterJake Evans and Alexander Romanov  became the latest players to enter the NHL’s COVID protocol. The Canadiens have 14 players in the protocol and five other players are  injured, including Brendan Gallagher, who sat out this game with a lower-body injury.

The Canadiens experienced their trademark second-period lull. They were outshot 19-6 and the Panthers scored two goals in the final five minutes to grab a 3-2 lead.

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Aleksander Barkov tied the game at 2-2 with a power-play goal at 15:02 and Frank Vatrano put the Panthers ahead for good when he scored at 17:30.

Any chance of a comeback  effectively ended 15 seconds into the third period when Sam Bennett scored his second goal of the game and 11th of the season. Mason Marchment completed the scoring.

The Canadiens held their only lead when Nick Suzuki scored during a 4-on-4 situation at 9:30 of the  second period. He buried the rebound of a shot by Jesse Ylonen. Suzuki played a key role in making the goal possible when he suckered Aaron Ekblad into taking an interference penalty shortly after David Savard was sent off for tripping.

It was Suzuki’s seventh goal of the of the season and it ended a sIx-game point drought.

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Montembeault was the reason the Canadiens came out of the first period tied 1-1. He made 14 saves after Florida took a 1-0 lead on Bennett’s goal at the 32-second mark.

The Canadiens tied the game when Jonathan Drouin redirected a pass from Sami Niku at 3:52.

The Canadiens were down to 10 forwards for most of the first period after Cédric Paquette was sent off for the concussion protocol after he was hit in the chin by Bennett. He received a clean bill of health and returned in second period, but did not play in the third.

Cam Hillis became the sixth Canadien to make his NHL debut this season. He replaced Gallagher and had two shots on goal and won two of his four faceoffs.

The Canadiens’ next four games, all at home, have been postponed and Montreal doesn’t play again until Jan. 12, when they travel to Boston for a game that has been moved from the Bell Centre.

The break will give the the Canadiens a chance to get players out of the COVID protocol, but the team suspended all activities until Jan. 6. The measure also applies to the Laval Rocket.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

  1. Montreal Canadiens Josh Anderson, second from right, with teammates Jake Evans, Brett Kulak and Alexander Romanov in July. Evans and Romanov entered the NHL's COVID protocol Jan. 1, 2022.

    Montreal Canadiens Evans, Romanov added to NHL’s COVID protocol list

  2. Canadiens' Corey Schueneman brings the puck up against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period at the Amalie Arena on Dec. 28, 2021, in Tampa.

    Plenty of fresh faces seeing action for Canadiens

  3. Referee Dave Jackson calls a hooking penalty during a playoff  game between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils on April 11, 2008, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

    Stu Cowan: Officials got Gallagher call right, TV analyst Jackson says

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