Evgenii Dadonov would open the scoring 4:32 into the action. Dadonov sent Nick Bjugstad into the offensive zone and then darted into an opening in the slot to finish off a nice backhand dish from Aleksander Barkov. The Cats’ first line looked in mid-season form with this fine display of passing.
Dadonov would strike again 6:35 later with the Panthers on a power-play. With a delayed penalty call on, Mike Hoffman took a pass from Barkov near the blue line and blasted the puck towards the net. The shot was blocked in front by Brett Lernout and it looked like he touched the puck with this stick in an attempt to clear the slot, but there was no whistle and Vincent Trocheck collected the loose disk and found Dadonov for the easy back door put-away, much to the chagrin of Carey Price and the Habs.
The Canadiens would draw one back before the end of the opening frame with veteran Matthew Peca getting credited with the power-play goal on assists from Mike Reilly and from Vegas first-rounder, Nick Suzuki. Peca was actually trying to make a pass, but the puck deflected off the skates of both Juho Lammikko and Keith Yandle on its way by a helpless Roberto Luongo.
While Dadonov took the lead role in the first, it was Jared McCann’s turn to shine in the third.
After a scoreless second period, McCann skated up the right boards and drove to the net, stuffing the puck through Antti Niemi for a shorthanded goal. The only assist on the play went to defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. You really have to like the aggressiveness McCann displayed here. I don’t think he ever even looked at Denis Malgin once the two crossed the blue line. He made up his mind that he was going to risk a pass and went hard to the net and was rewarded for the effort.
Malgin would be involved in the next Panther goal, which came exactly two minutes later. The Swiss forward used his speed to steal the puck behind the net after a sloppy play by Niemi and quickly passed it back out into the slot for McCann to rifle home, giving the Cats a three-goal lead.
Peca would pick up his second point of the with pretty pass to Nikita Scherbak, who easily finished off the 2-on-1 Montreal break. The former Lightning draft pick chipped the puck by Mike Matheson at his own blue line and his speed to gain the Panthers zone, pulling Bogdan Kiselevich to the ice before finding Scherbak. Not the best from the two Florida defensemen on this one.
Nick Bjugstad would complete the scoring with an empty-net tally with 52 seconds left to go in the game. Bjugstad didn’t put the puck in the net, however, her was awarded the goal because he was pulled down by Scherbak while in the act of shooting. Count it!
Luongo played the first periods and stopped 20 of the 21 shots he faced. Michael Hutchinson mopped up in the third and made 11 saves on 12 shots.
Price started for Montreal and stopped 20 out of 22 shots in 31:57 TOI before giving way to Niemi who surrendered 2 goals on 18 shots.
Max Domi punched Aaron Ekblad in the nose and received minor, major and match penalties for his trouble.
The Panthers next exhibition action will come on Saturday when the go back on the road to face the Dallas Stars in Tulsa, OK.