Jonathan Huberdeau notched two goals, including the game-winner, and tied Joe Juneau’s NHL record for most assists by a left wing (70) to lift the Florida Panthers to a 7-4 win over the game Montreal Canadiens at FLA Live Arena.
The Panthers fell behind early for the fourth straight game when Laurent Dauphin head-manned to Jesse Ylonen and he found trailer Chris Wideman, who put the Habs first shot of the night past Sergei Bobrovsky at the 2:32.
Florida slowly took control of the play and eventually tied the score at 16:17 after Eetu Luostarinen stole the puck from Justin Barron at center and went the other way before dishing off to Jonathan Huberdeau for a spectacular shorthanded goal.
The Cats forged ahead 1:40 later when Joe Thornton took the puck away from Jake Evans and quickly fed a ready-and-waiting Ryan Lomberg and he fired home from the top of the left circle.
Former Canadien Ben Chiarot set up Sam Bennett 2:37 into the middle frame to give the home side a two-goal lead after the center won an offensive draw back to him and was able to knock the rebound in after the big defenseman’s shot from the point struck Barron in front.
The Panthers grew the lead at 7:57 when the Lomberghini parked the puck in the back of the net by beating Allen from between the circles after taking a pass from Aleksander Barkov. Nice job by Carter Verhaeghe to turn on the jets and hold the puck in the Montreal zone, allowing Barkov to take possession and tee up Lomberg for his ever brace.
At that point it looked like the game was going to end in an utter rout, but Florida’s wheels came flying off late in the second and the Canadiens inexplicably rallied to tie the game with Joel Edmundson, Dauphin and Christian Dvorak all scoring in a brutal 1:42 span.
As he did in Saturday’s game against Ottawa, Andrew Brunette refrained from giving Bobrovsky the hook, and the veteran keeper went on to stop all six shots in the third after surrendering three goals on five shots in the second.
Huberdeau would go to backhand again to make Allen look foolish (again) 1:19 into the third after old chum Mike Hoffman gagged the puck up to Lomberg and he quickly found a wide-open Bennett, who dished off to the equally unmarked Panthers scoring leader.
Mason Marchment provided an insurance marker at 14;43, converting a nice centering feed from Bennett after some gritty work by Samson Reinhart to free the puck near the right boards.
Huberdeau made a little history by notching his 70th helper of the season, which was also the 400th assist of his career, on Barkov’s empty-netter with 2;34 left in regulation. Claude Giroux drew the secondary assist on the clinching goal, giving him five assists in four games played with the Panthers.
With the exception of the early stages of the game and the 102-second span of absolute dreck late in the second, the Panthers dominated this one, out-shooting Montreal by a robust 46-24 margin that saw les Canadiens block 21 shots. The Cats also won the faceoff battle and outhit the Habs. That said, they need to clean up some disturbing trends. Florida can overcome bad starts, an 0 for 4 power play and shoddy goalkeeping against teams like Montreal, but a lack of attention to detail and overconfidence could cost them big time coming down the stretch. While the Cats maintained their six-point lead in the Atlantic Division, they need to be aware that a little losing streak could send them tumbling down the ladder. They can’t let that happen. They are too good to let that happen. Three-point nights from Huberdeau, Bennett and Lomberg(!) allowed them to score their way out of trouble last night, but that’s not going to work against everyone.
Cote et Fins
- Jonathan Huberdeau’s double-milestone assist also established a new career-high in points (93) for the 28-year-old forward. Huberdeau is four points away from breaking Aleksander Barkov’s franchise record for points in a season.
- What a night for Ryan Lomberg. Not only did he score twice in an NHL game for the first time, he established a new career-high with three points. First Star for you, sir!
- Sergei Bobrovsky made 20 saves to pick up his 32nd win of the season, which has him tied for fourth in the league behind Andrei Vasilevskiy (34), Tristan Jarry (33) and Jusse Saros (33). Bob’s got to be better than he’s been in his last two starts. Getting beat down low rather easily.
- Canadiens who collected assists during the three-goal second period blitz were Nick Suzuki, Justin Barron, Mathieu Perrault , Chris Wideman, Rem Pitlick and David Savard. Barron’s helper was his first NHL point.
- The Panthers fourth tally established a new franchise record for most goals in a season. The old mark was 264. Florida is now up to 268 with 16 games to go.
- For more on Florida’s third win over Montreal, stop by Eyes On The Prize.