There were a number of good storylines going into this one. The Panthers visit their old coach in Montreal. Last game of a disastrous Canadian road trip. In the first game in Toronto, the team was robbed on a goalie interference non-call resulting in the game winning goal for the Leafs. That was followed by a dreadful 5-3 loss against the Senators. Also, Stephen Weiss misses his first game of the season. A lot of fans have been calling for him to be benched, but he was kept out because of an ankle injury that happened during Friday's soccer game in lieu of practice. Finally, it's the first Panthers-Canadiens game since Travis Moen's cheap shot on prospect Erik Gudbranson in the pre-season, with many fans looking forward to a possible Moen-Darcy Hordichuk matchup. There were no fights and the Panthers faithful would have to be content with a win.
The Panthers came out slowly, looking like they've learned nothing over the last week. They picked up the pace after a few shifts, but were unable to control the puck until Dmitry Kulikov took an elbowing penalty. The Panthers killed the penalty and immediately started looking more confident. They were still having a little trouble in the Canadiens end, but Michael Frolik hustled to pick up his own rebound and scored his first of the season. Although they weren't able to get one by Carey Price, even when he was missing his stick for about a minute, the Panthers controlled the game for most of the rest of the period, including killing off the first 1:45 of a Bryan Allen penalty that straddled the period break.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, although they killed off the final 15 seconds of Allen's penalty, the Canadiens controlled the game in the early part of the second period, tying the game on Mathieu Darche's goal at 2:13. The Panthers came back and put a few good shifts together, with Carey Price stoning David Booth twice, as he picked up his own rebound mid-period. Booth would get his revenge soon after, burying a penalty shot after Jaroslav Spacek took him out on a breakaway. The Panthers ended the period parading to the penalty box. Higgins was taken out with a knee-on-knee hit, but it was Jason Garrison on his way to the box for delay of game. They went down another man when Mike Weaver was called for high sticking.
The Canadiens started the third period on a 5-on-3 power play for almost a minute and a half. The Canadiens came close to scoring the tying goal, but Gionta, with a wide open net, put a rebound off of Dennis Wideman's skate. The Panthers continued to bring it for the rest of the game. Though the team was outplayed at times, Vokoun was sharp, stopping 40 of 41 shots. Late in the period, Steven Reinprecht grabbed a loose puck, skated past the lone defenseman and got a shot on Price. Price made the save, but a streaking Shawn Matthias popped the rebound past him to make it 3-1. P.K. Subban went to the box on the next shift, but the Panthers toothless power play nearly cost them as the Canadiens had an equal number of shots in the two minutes. Incredibly, once back at even strength the Panthers were able to pin the Canadiens in their own end for the final minute to win the game and move back up out of last place in the league.
The Panthers were outplayed in stretches and allowed too many shots, but at other times dominated the game. The penalty kill was perfect and they were able to clamp down when necessary and get the win. That they looked this good while missing their top-line center after playing two dismal games should definitely be raising some questions from management and the coaching staff. In addition, the power play once again was weak, with the team playing better at even strength. On the plus side, Michael Frolik responded well to his benching, scoring his first goal and Steven Reinprecht also played a good game.
1 Tomas Vokoun, 40 saves
2 David Booth, 1 goal (game winner), +1
3 Mathieu Darche, 1 goal