Florida Panthers at Montreal Canadiens game preview
At a time where every point is crucial, the Florida Panthers just let two slip away.
The Atlantic Division contenders need to regroup quickly from a potentially crushing loss when they resume an important road trip Tuesday night against the injury-plagued Montreal Canadiens.
With a chance to regain first place in the Atlantic, Florida allowed three unanswered goals in the final 7:10 to end up with a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday. After owning an 18-11 shot advantage while dominating the first two periods, the Panthers were outshot 17-7 in the pivotal third.
"We let them skate in the third period," coach Gerard Gallant said. "We backed off too much. They took it to us. The first goal killed us. You lose a game like that (and) you’re going to be (upset)."
Florida (38-22-9) remained tied with Tampa Bay and one point behind Boston in the division race. Though the Panthers own a game in hand on the Bruins, they’ll play eight of their final 13 on the road.
They still have an opportunity to at least keep pace on this current three-game trek, which ends Thursday against lowly Toronto following the first of three remaining meetings with the banged-up Canadiens.
Montreal (32-31-6) won’t have P.K. Subban for a second straight game as the star defenseman recovers from a neck injury sustained in a frightening collision with teammate Alexei Emelin Thursday against Buffalo. Reigning league MVP Carey Price (knee) remains sidelined as well, as do forwards Brendan Gallagher (lower body), David Desharnais (foot), Lars Eller (illness) and defensemen Jeff Petry (abdomen) and Tom Gilbert (knee).
The Canadiens’ makeshift lineup couldn’t match playoff-hopeful Minnesota in Saturday’s 4-1 loss that ended an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) at Bell Centre.
"The guys competed," coach Michel Therrien said. "We had a lot of chances around the net but lacked finishing. Their goaltender was very solid, and I liked the level of competition from our team."
Montreal, which scored seven goals in wins over Dallas and Buffalo to begin a four-game homestand, fell to 4-25-2 since Dec. 3 when recording two or less. It’s 26-3-2 this season when scoring at least three.
The offense has depended upon Alex Galchenyuk of late. The 22-year-old has 11 of his career-high 25 goals over a nine-game stretch but was held off the scoresheet by the Wild, ending a streak of three straight two-goal efforts.
Florida, which amassed 11 goals in victories over Ottawa and Philadelphia preceding Monday’s collapse, continues to get production from its young forwards. Aleksander Barkov has 10 goals in his last 15 games after registering a goal and an assist against the Islanders, while Quebec native Jonathan Huberdeau has seven points over a four-game streak following Monday’s two-assist performance.
Veteran Jussi Jokinen had a 10-game point streak end in Monday’s defeat.
Barkov had two goals and an assist and Huberdeau set up two scores as the Panthers ended a three-game series skid with a 3-1 win on Dec. 29. Barkov has five goals in the last five matchups and Huberdeau eight assists during a six-game point streak against Montreal.