Just when we thought that Carey Price was rounding into traditional form, he hit Florida and what we saw in early December reverted to what he presented all-too-often in October and November.

Not that Price was the sole reason the Canadiens lost 6-5 to the Florida Panthers, but his poor performance was a major contributor. While he didn’t allow the rebounds that plagued him in Tampa Saturday night, the impression was, for the second consecutive game he wasn’t in a competitive frame of mind. He could have been better on four of the six goals he allowed. The other two were just unlucky – one off Ben Chiarot’s skate and the other tipped past him by Shea Weber.

The Canadiens scored nine goals over a twenty-four hour period but, because they gave up eleven to the opposition, they failed to pick up a single point in the standings. A Carey Price even marginally close to the form that earned him that 10.5 million dollar annual contract should have changed that.

CONTRIBUTING TO THE DOWNFALL

This was a really rough night for the Canadiens top defense pairing. Ben Chiarot and Shea Weber have had some very good games together over the last month but their lack of speed was exposed by the Panthers. They were on the ice for Florida’s second and each of their last three goals. Chiarot finished minus-4 while Weber got away with a minus-3 because he scored the Canadiens fifth goal.  His 12th of the season came with just under two minutes remaining in the game.

UNTIMELY INFRACTIONS

The Canadiens were penalized five times, four of them in the first period. Every one of the fouls was committed in the offensive zone which was only one of the many issues that Claude Julien had with the way the game unfolded. The Canadiens managed to kill all of them off, but the penalties had the effect of breaking up whatever flow they might have tried to establish early in the game. An over-compensating Brendan Gallagher was handed two of the penalties.

THE ROOKIE

Nick Suzuki is a rookie and only 20 years old but on the ice he’s looking more and more like a 28 year old veteran. Increasingly, Claude Julien is putting him in difficult situations and Suzuki is handling them without failure or issue. Suzuki drew assists on the three straight goals that put the Canadiens into a brief 3-2 lead in the game. He also hit a goal post in the second period that might have given the Canadiens a two-goal lead at the time.

Suzuki has quietly posted a goal and seven assists in his last five games. If this keeps up, he’ll be inserting himself into the Calder Trophy conversation.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING

….The Canadiens are now 3-3-0 with one game remaining on holiday string of road games. They remain in eleventh place in the Eastern Conference with four teams and six points between themselves and the last wild card berth.

….Against Atlantic Division opponents the Canadiens are now 4-7-2.

….This was Carey Price’s seventh start in a row and 32nd in the Canadiens 39 games. Because there is no adequate backup, he is now on track to start 68 games. With the eleven goals scored on him in Florida his season stats have sunk to a below average 3.03GAA and .901 save percentage.

….Max Domi now has a goal in each of his last five games and has eight points over his last six. I don’t think we’ll ever be highlighting his defensive work but he and linemates Suzuki and Artturi Lehkonen were pretty solid against the Panthers.

…..Brendan Gallagher keeps on trying. Thirteen shooting attempts, eight of them on-goal.  He had five shots on goal in Tampa Saturday. Nothing’s going in right now.   He has 39 shots in his last eight games and one goal to show.

….Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored in his second straight game since returning from the concussion. He was also 5-0 in faceoffs.

….Phillip Danault took 33 of the game’s 51 faceoffs winning 55%.

….Ryan Poehling was given 7:44 ice time in the game. Of interest, 1:14 of that came in a penalty killing role which shows a certain amount of trust from the coaching staff.

….Right wing Riley Barber had fewest minutes at 3:18 (6 shifts)which begs one to ask why he was even in the lineup.

….Good news. While the Panthers were 0-for-5 with the man advantage, the Canadiens power play produced two more goals. Over their last eleven games the power play has scored 10 goals on 23 advantages – 43.4%.

MOVING ON

The Canadiens still have a chance to come away with a winning record on their seven game road trip if they can beat the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh New Year’s Eve in what will be their final game of the decade. They then return home to face Tampa for the second time in six days, Thursday at the Bell Centre.