Recap: Slow Start Dooms Panthers vs Canadiens

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

After a sleepy start, the Florida Panthers fought hard to try and even up the score against the Montreal Canadiens late in the third, but fell 2-1 in regulation.

Too little, too late. Despite a torrid third period charge from the Florida Panthers, Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens would manage to hold on for a 2-1 victory in front of their home crowd. The Panthers came out a bit flat against the Habs in the first and second periods, giving the Montreal squad some much needed offensive pressure against the Cats, something the Habs weren't able to do much against Florida in their last two meetings. The Panthers finally woke up in the third and displayed their recognizable hustle, but couldn't solve Price, who played a very solid game in net for Montreal.

Sean Bergenheim would score the only goal for the Panthers, again assisted by Aleksander Barkov, but no one else would dent the twine as Price and the Montreal defense continually turned away shot after shot in the third period. Florida's really struggling lately to get consistent offensive production from anyone other than Barkov, Bergenheim or Brad Boyes. Jonathan Huberdeau's struggles have been well documented, but the sudden dry spell from Nick Bjugstad, Scottie Upshall and the long-standing struggles of Tomas Fleischmann are starting to be a cause for concern. The Cats really need to ice two solid scoring lines so they can keep the pressure up offensively, while letting the third and fourth lines forecheck like demons and wear down opposing defenses.

Observations

  • The Cats got off to a slow start and had a few defensive gaffes along with some risky line changes. The Panthers also got caught a few times with three players deep behind the opposing net, leading to some Montreal odd-man rushes. Going to have to tighten that stuff up permanently if the Panthers want to go on another winning streak.

  • Florida had WAY too many shots from the perimeter in this game. If you've been paying attention to it, you'll notice where the Cats have been scoring most of their goals, and it's not from out wide or from the point. The pressure in the slot and traffic around the net has resulted in most of the offense for the Cats, and against a solid keeper like Price, the Panthers have to do a lot more than throw the puck from out wide on the rush to score.

  • They may not have won the game, but man did Florida put on a clinic in the third period on playing puck possession hockey. This is exactly the type of hockey that Dale Tallon has wanted the Panthers to play since he took over, and it looks like he finally has the coaching staff and lineup to do it when everyone's pulling the rope the same direction. It's definitely a positive to take out of this one.

  • The Bjugstad line has been pretty quiet as of late, and now that Jonathan Huberdeau has been moved off the wing that line seems to have even more trouble generating solid pressure. There's a bit of a lack of hustle on that line at times, and you're not seeing them cause turnovers at quite the rate they were before. Hopefully that line can get back on track soon as the Barkov-Boyes-Bergenheim line can't do it all by themselves.

  • Ed Jovanovski doesn't look absolutely terrible as he did before his extended injury absence. He's moving decent and playing some pretty solid defensive hockey as he gets his game legs back. He did have a horrible turnover in this game, but so did several other players as well. The Panthers seem to have a pretty solid glut at defense right now and have the nice problem of having to send Dylan Olsen back to the AHL to get ice time. The question is, should they? Olsen was playing solid minutes paired with Gudbranson and that pairing could have more of an impact for the Cats rather than having Jovo paired with Gudbranson. Who do you scratch now that the captain is back?

  • Drew Shore had a pretty solid game, causing some turnovers and playing some shorthanded minutes. Jimmy Hayes was a surprise scratch in favor of Shore, which was the right call as Hayes hasn't been exerting himself enough to make an impact on that fourth line. That line is best when each player is throwing the body around and wearing down the opposing defense, and there hasn't been enough of that as of late. Shore did just that.

  • Price played very aggressively against the Panthers in this game, coming way out for saves and generally shutting down anything by controlling his rebounds well. He was definitely the MVP in this one for the Habs and prevented the Panthers from evening the game up countless times in the third period. Gotta hand it to Montreal too; they played solid defensively for their goalie.
Up Next: Florida will head to Buffalo on Thursday to take on the Sabres. Florida has struggled against one of the few teams in the league below them in the standings, but that was with a different coach and an apathetic lineup on the ice. This time around should hopefully be different.
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