This was a game of shifting momentum as first the Canadiens, then the Panthers took control before the Canadiens came back to win the game in overtime.
The Canadiens owned the first period but trailed 1-0 on an own-goal rebound off Shea Weber’s leg.
They seemed to be cruising early in the second period especially after Max Pacioretty scored on a power play to tie the game at 5:48 but two minutes later Chris Terry took a bad ‘holding-the-stick’ penalty in the offensive zone and the winds quickly changed. Victor Trochek scored on that power play to make it 2-1 and over a thirteen minute stretch Al Montoya stood alone as the shots on goal were 18-4 for Florida. But the Canadiens reached back. Through the final 16 minutes they outshot Florida 14-6, tied the game with 2.37 left and won it 39-seconds into overtime.
I mentioned after the game how dispirited Brendan Gallagher looked during the Tampa game Wednesday. It might have been the worst game of a frustrating thirty games or so. Twenty-four hours later he had shaken it off and was back doing his thing which, on this night was getting in the face of Florida goaltender James Reimer. On my notes I had him down for five scoring chances before he tied the game up on by rifling a pass from Phillip Danault off a 2-on-1 in the dying minutes. First goal in a hundred years it must have seemed. It was a good one.
For much of the game, the Canadiens top line seemed to missing it’s middle component. Phillip Danault is not a first line centre. His game is not suited for setting up scoring chances for the likes of Max Pacioretty and Gallagher. But it was Danault who was key to a comeback win in the game’s final four minutes. He got loose on the 2-on-1 to set up Gallagher for tieing goal and then he got behind Jussi Jokinen to receive Pacioretty’s clearing pass and went in on the game winning breakaway. And his game winning shot was worthy of any top goalscorer.
You expect your team leader to step up when the going gets tough and, with the injuries to Galchenyuk, Desharnais and Andrew Shaw stripped the team of a large part of it’s offense, Pacioretty has been there in a very large way. A power play goal as well as the assist on the winner on this night. In the 12 games since Galchenyuk hurt his knee in Los Angeles December 4th Pacioretty has 10 goals and 15 points. Through his first 24 games he’d scored only 5 times. Pacioretty had seven of the 15 shots taken by his line against the Panthers.
JOINING THE RUSH –
It was worth mentioning that against Tampa, Jeff Petry failed to register a shot on goal for the first time since November 29th. The drought didn’t last long. If there was a defensive star in this game Petry was it. Another four shots on goal in this game giving him 34 shots in his last 9 games, which is up there in Pacioretty territory.
No points but he was plus-2 and he has five goals,three assists and is plus-10 over those 9 games.
Both goaltenders were very good, but Montoya was the more spectacular. He made a highlight reel save when he threw his stick away and lunged across to stop a sure goal from Aaron Ekblad which would have made it 3-1 halfway through the second period. That was only one he faced in that 13 minute 18-shot barrage the Panthers unleashed on him. He weathered it and gave the Canadiens a chance to mount their comeback.
THE LONG ROAD AHEAD
So three game into the seven road trip the Canadiens are 1-1-1. The three game losing streak is over but not the uphill climb. It will be New Years Eve in Pittsburgh followed by another back-to-back on the road with Nashville and P.K. Subban on Tuesday and Dallas on Wednesday. A .500 road trip could be considered a success. Nobody’s betting their house on it though.