Newcomers Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot and Robert Hagg all got on the scoresheet with Giroux picking up two assists while Chiarot and Hagg each collected a helper.
Jonathan Huberdeau was called for roughing twenty seconds into the game and the Canadiens made the Panthers pay nine seconds later when Cole Caufield took a pass from Chris Wideman and then snapped a cross over to Nick Suzuki, who moved in from the right point and beat Spencer Knight with a wrister.
Aleksander Barkov got loose behind the Montreal defenseman and solved Jake Allen far side to even the score seven seconds later. Assists on the captain’s 27th goal went to Hagg and Giroux, quickly giving the duo their first points as members of the Panthers.
Both netminders settled down after the quick outburst of goals. Allen in particular had a strong period, stopping 14 of 15 Florida shots.
Mason Marchment put the Cats on top 1:12 into the second when he took possession of the puck after Corey Schuenenman, who was being harried by Eetu Luostarinen, fell to the ice. Marchment rounded the net to cash in on his own rebound after Allen made the initial save.
Les Canadiens responded at the 5:59 mark thanks to some hard work by former Cat Mike Hoffman, who managed to keep possession of the puck along the left boards, eventually dropping it back to Alexander Romanov. Romanov floated a shot towards goal that was deflected home by Jake Evans.
Anthony Duclair would answer back with a deflection of his own at 7:06 after Chiarot took a pass from Huberdeau and patiently waited before firing off a rising shot that The Duke was able to knock down to the ice and in.
Florida took a two-goal lead 7:20 into the final frame after Sam Reinhart finished off a pretty give and go passing play with Huberdeau from the lower edge of the right circle with the Cats enjoying a man-advantage. He didn’t earn an assist, but a real good hustle play by Barkov to keep Evans from claiming an errant Giroux pass, which allowed Reinhart to collect the puck and go down low to Huberdeau.
Montreal pulled back within a goal with 3:40 remaining and Allen off for an extra attacker. Christian Dvorak’s centering pass nicked off the skate of Radko Gudas and bounced to Paul Byron, who swatted it by Knight. Second assist went to Joel Armia, who worked a give and go with Dvorak on the Panthers’ left flank.
The Panthers were able to hold on and get the win, moving a point ahead (with a game in hand) of the Carolina Hurricanes for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Florida’s lead in the Atlantic Division is now seven points. On to Ottawa!
Cote et Fins
- Rookie Spencer Knight has started the first five of Florida’s run of seven straight road games. Knight, who made 28 saves versus the Habs, has backstopped the club to a 3-1-1 record and allowed just 11 goals.
- The assists by Claude Giroux and Robert Hagg on Aleksander Barkov’s goal were each the second-fastest point by an NHL player making his team debut this season.
- Sam Reinhart is now one goal away from matching his career-high of 25, a mark which he’s hit twice as an NHLer. Reinhart has produced six goals and five assists in ten games during the month of March.
- Jake Allen kept his club in it until the end, finishing with 38 saves on 42 shots.
- In addition to notching his fourteenth goal, Mason Marchment led all skaters with a six shots on net.
- MacKenzie Weegar logged a game-high 25:30 of ice time and registered two shots, three hits, two blocks and a takeaway.
- For more on the Canadiens second loss of the season to the Cats, visit Eyes on the Prize.