Once again, the Florida Panthers gave one of the Eastern Conference's best all they could handle. Unfortunately, some undisciplined penalties did the desperate Cats in as they dropped a hard-fought 3-2 overtime decision to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
The Panthers had the better of the first period play, with Carey Price absolutely robbing Jaromir Jagr with his glove on Florida's best scoring opportunity, until a late unsportsmanlike conduct call on Jimmy Hayes, after he was rocked with a hip check by Greg Pateryn, set the stage for the Habs to grab the lead.
Aleksander Barkov blocked Jeff Petry's shot from the point, but the puck found its way across the ice to a wide-open Lars Eller, who drove it past an out-of-position Roberto Luongo. Nathan Beaulieu also picked up an assist by feeding Petry to start the play. The goal came one second after Hayes' penalty had expired.
Barkov would even the game at the 6:09 mark of the second period, finishing off a pretty passing play involving line-mates Jonathan Huberdeau and Jagr. Huberdeau found Barkov open in the slot and he beat Price with a gorgeous backhander top-shelf after taking the crafty dish.
The young duo teamed up again for Florida's next goal 7:02 later with the Cats on a power play. Huberdeau took a pass from Dmitry Kulikov and sent the puck knifing through the Montreal defense. Barkov, who was camped out in front, reached out and deflected the puck home for his fourteenth of the season to give the Panthers the lead.
Dave Bolland took a momentum-killing cross-checking penalty twenty-eight seconds later, giving Montreal an opportunity to tie the game that they would take full advantage of.
Tomas Plekanec found Alex Galchenyuk open down low, and as the Cats' defense played for a pass and failed to pressure him, the 21-year-old turned and fired the puck by Luongo from tough angle for his twentieth goal. Andrei Markov drew the secondary assist on Galchenyuk's equalizer.
The game went to overtime, giving both teams a point, after Florida out-shot Montreal by an 8-5 margin in the third period.
Vincent Trocheck would end up in the penalty box after he was caught rapping Eller in the melon with his stick with 2:08 remaining in the extra session. A mistake that would leave the young center sitting dejectedly in the sin bin after the game ended, sporting goat horns.
Max Pacioretty produced the game-winner seven seconds after the call. P.K. Subban sent the puck to David Desharnais, who was standing along the goal line. Desharnais whipped it over to the waiting Pacioretty, who slid it by a helpless Luongo, clinching a playoff berth for the Canadiens.
The loss, coupled with Boston's 4-2 win over the Rangers earlier in the day, left the Cats four behind the Bruins in the chase for the final postseason slot in the east. Florida, now with 83 points, will play the Senators, the team standing between the Cats and B's, today in Ottawa in another game with huge playoff implications.
Cote et extremites
- Jonathan Huberdeau's two assists gave him 47 points on the season. With Nick Bjugstad out for the remainder of the season, it looks all but certain that Huberdeau will finish as the team's leading-scorer.
- Aleksander Barkov posted the first multi-goal game of his career. His second of the night was Florida's first power-play marker in the last seven contests.
- Carey Price finished the game with 21 saves to pick up win number forty-one on the season. Price looks like he could be the first goalie since Jose Theodore to lay claim to the Hart Trophy as league MVP.
- Roberto Luongo had another strong game for the Cats, turning aside 22 of 25 shots. Luongo made a Gumby-like stop late in the final frame to help get Florida a point.
- Erik Gudbranson returned to the lineup and finished with a game-high six hits, two blocks and registered three shots on goal. A "brawny" performance from the Panthers rugged defenseman.
- On the other side of the ice, Habs defender Alexei Emelin blocked a game-high five shots and dished out two hits.
- Jaromir Jagr led the Panthers with four shots and his assist was his tenth point since joining the team at the trade deadline. The 43-year-old now has helpers in his last three outings.
- Dave Bolland won a team-leading twelve draws, but his penalty right after the Cats took the lead in the second was a costly one.
- Get your Eyes On The Prize for more on the latest squeaker between the Les Pantheres and Les Habitants.