The Montreal Canadiens will be looking for a few things to show up in their play when they travel up Florida’s Gulf Coast to play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night — a short memory and the ability to bounce back.
Stung by a 9-5 throttling by the Florida Panthers in a very forgettable Thursday night in south Florida, Montreal (27-36-6, 60 points) surrendered seven goals in the match’s opening 13:18 and saw goaltenders Sam Montembeault and Jake Allen tag in and out as the home side scored on nine of 42 shots.
Starting in goal and returning to finish the blowout, Montembeault made 21 saves on 24 shots. In his stint of 21:29, Allen let in six goals on 18 shots.
The Panthers became the first club to score seven times in the first period since the Hartford Whalers beat Montreal 11-6 on Oct. 19, 1985.
“We gave up way too many chances the whole game,” said Montreal captain Nick Suzuki. “Against a team like that, with the offensive players they have, they’re going to score.
“It felt like we were playing shinny hockey in the summer and they were playing to make a playoff spot. So it’s pretty unacceptable from us.”
The Habs got a goal and an assist each from Mike Matheson and Anthony Richard. Michael Pezzetta, Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Rem Pitlick found the net, but the Canadiens lost for the eighth time in nine games (1-6-2) — in epic fashion, no less.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” said Pitlick, who tallied on the power play. “I thought we made some push-back, too. (Coach) Marty (St. Louis) kind of left us as a group in between periods, and some things were said. I did think that we made some pushes.”
The Lightning (41-22-6, 88 points) had to push to the end, hung on in overtime and saw Alex Killorn ring home the game-deciding goal in the shootout’s bottom of the third round of a 4-3 win at the New Jersey Devils.
In a critical third period with the game knotted at 2-2, Tampa Bay killed off a full two-minute, five-on-three Devils power play. Steven Stamkos then exited the penalty box and scored the go-ahead goal with less than five minutes to play.
New Jersey’s Timo Meier did tie it over two minutes later with his second tally of the match, but the enormous effort on the penalty kill and the 29th marker by Stamkos — who had two goals and an assist — put the visitors in position to win.
“I think the turning point was the penalty kill for us, the five-on-three,” said defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who dealt out two assists. “(Defensively), we were on the inside. We didn’t let them do much. They were shooting from the outside.”
In two victories this season, the defending Eastern Conference champions have a 9-2 scoring advantage over the Habs.
–Field Level Media
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