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Recap: Panthers roar to rousing 6-2 win over Canadiens

Matthew Tkachuk notched two of the Florida Panthers four second period power-play goals to spark the indefatigable club to a rousing 6-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens in a penalty-filled affair from Centre Bell.

After a scoreless opening period that saw Sergei Bobrovsky leave with a lower-body injury 2:01 into the action, the Cats reeled off five goals in the middle frame to end former prospect Sam Montembeault’s night early.

Alex Lyon filled in admirably for Bobrovsky and came up big late in the first when Montreal made a strong push for the game-opening goal after getting out-played for most of the period.

Instead, it was Sam Reinhart who got the tilt’s first goal at 6:30 when he fired the puck into the empty net after Montembeault denied Aleksander Barkov’s shot from the lower right circle with Kirby Dach off for hooking. Reinhart drew the penalty and also made the crossing pass to set up Barkov before he potted his 14th of the season.

Martin St. Louis challenged the goal as Montembeault crashed into Tkachuk trying to get back to make a save. The challenge was unsuccessful and gave the Cats another power play to work with.

Sam Bennett made St. Louis and the Habs pay 1:57 later with a nifty little redirection of a Gustav Forsling pass after Anton Lundell backhanded the puck over to the defenseman.

Tkachuk got his first of the night, and the eventual game-winner, at the 14:58 mark when he tapped in a juicy rebound after Reinhart deflected a shot from a drifting Brandon Montour low on Montembeault. The power-play goal came shortly after Lyon made a diving save on Cole Caufield with the Canadiens up a man.

A strong individual effort by Givani Smith netted the recently-acquired forward his first as a Panther and proved the Cats could score 5-on-5 as well. After Eetu Luostartinen dropped to Radko Gudas, he quickly sent a diagonal pass to Smith, who flung a shot on goal that was saved. Smith was able to fish out the rebound and deposited it into the back of the net at 16:03.

Florida became the first team to score four power-play goals in a period this season when Tkachuk beat Montembeault with a wicked wrister from the right circle with the helpers going to Reinhart and Barkov with 43 seconds left in the stanza.

With Cayden Primeau taking over in goal, Rem Pitlick and Josh Anderson lit the lamp 5:54 apart early in the third period as the Canadiens tried to stage a comeback.

Pitlick’s sharp-angle shot caught Gudas’ blade and handcuffed Lyon at 2:02 and was assisted by another ex-Cat, Mike Hoffman as well as Justin Barron. Anderson one-timed a Pitlick cross after he was fed by Jesse Ylonen after the Panthers failed to clear the zone.

Ryan Lomberg snuffed out any hope of a Montreal miracle when he scored 1:05 after Anderson. After Bennett freed the puck along the boards, Carter Verhaeghe whipped a pass in front that the Lomberghini bumped in.

After the Panthers finished outscoring the Canadiens they engaged in some serious fisticuffs with the Habs. The card included Tkachuk fighting former Panther Mike Matheson, who injured Eric Staal earlier, Smith squaring off with rookie Arber Xhekaj, and Lomberg throwing down with Michael Pezzetta.

It was an impressive, action-packed night that saw the Cats, who were playing for the third time in four nights, finish its road trip with a 2-0-1 record and pull within two points of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have three games in hand, so they need to lose while the Panthers, who are 6-2-1 in their last nine, need to keep stacking wins.

Poutine & Curds

  • Alex Lyon was a winner in his first appearance for the Panthers. Lyon played 57:39 and finished the game with 23 saves. It was first NHL tilt since January 8, 2022 when he lost to the Cats as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes. Lyon got his first win since defeating the St. Louis Blues on November 13, 2021.
  • Florida got multipoint performances from four members of its top-six. Sam Reinhart had a goal and two assists, Matthew Tkachuk scored twice, Sam Bennett had a goal and an assist, and Aleksander Barkov had two helpers.
  • Givani Smith collected his first goal of the season, registered two shots and two hits, and racked up 17 PIM in just 5:33 TOI. Smith has made a positive impact since being acquired from Detroit on December 19. That’s a crafty acquisition by general manager Bill Zito.
  • The Panthers matched the franchise record for most power-play goals in a period, set December 9, 1998, in a 6-5 win against the Ottawa Senators. Florida went a blistering 4 for 8 with the man-advantage and 5 for 5 on the penalty kill. Special teams, special teams, special teams.
  • Cayden Primeau made six saves on seven shots in his season debut after relieving Sam Montembeault, who stopped 28 of 33 shots over the first two periods.
  • Shout out to Patrick Chevrefils, who dressed as the emergency backup goalie for Alex Lyon.
  • The Cats have blasted the Habs twice this season, outscoring them 13-4 in the process. Eyes On The Prize has a plus./