Try as they might, and they certainly did try hard in this game, there simply isn’t enough left in the Canadiens tank to survive a good team playing well. And through the final two periods the Panthers had their A-game going.
The Canadiens led 3-0 half way through the game and it might have been 4-0 but for one of those interminable off-side reviews that nullified an Andrei Markov goal. Just under two minutes after the Canadiens made it 3-0 Jaromir Jagr ended Mike Condon’s shutout streak at 116:53 during which he had stopped 63 shots. Over the final two periods Florida outshot the Canadiens 31-17 and outside of the four goals had 14 other major scoring chances that Condon was able to shut down.
For the second straight game the Canadiens finished with only five defensemen. Brett Lernout, who was making his NHL debut, left the game in the second period and didn’t return. Thrown right into the wringer again, Greg Pateryn logged 21:43, Joel Hanley 19:52 and Darren Dietz 17:30. At age 37, Andrei Markov again was over 27 minutes and Alexei Emelin just over 26. We don’t know how bad the Lernout problem is. There’s not much left to choose from in St. John’s. If they don’t bring Morgan Ellis back, they might try rookie Ryan Johnston who has been very good after his return from training camp back surgery in January. If it’s Johnston, he would be the 15th defenseman to play for the Canadiens this season.
Brendan Gallagher showed no sign of rust or aftereffects after missing twelve games with that groin injury. He scored his 19th goal. He would have draw first assist on the Markov goal that was disallowed. He had five shots on goal and four scoring chances. Max Pacioretty had five shots as well. Centre Alex Galchenyuk was limited to one shot for the fourth time in the last five games, which might be raising a red flag again about his fitness at centre ice.
So we enter the final week of the season. These same Panthers will be at the Bell Centre on
Tuesday. On to Carolina on Thursday and home to wrap it up next Saturday against Tampa Bay. Goaltending will be the story of the week. Condon will probably start Tuesday. Odds are good that Charlie Lindgren will make his start as a professional goaltender on Thursday against the Hurricanes. And then the final game. Will Carey Price be allowed to go into the summer months with a start in goal? A lot of discussion about the wisdom of giving him the game. In the end, it’s probably Price’s decision.