The Montreal team ended their three-game trip to the Southeastern United States with a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday at FLA Live Arena.
Sam Bennett sounded the charge with two goals for the Panthers, while Jonathan Huberdeau had three assists.
The result is not surprising, since the Canadian was playing with an incomplete formation.
Ahead of the meeting, the Canadiens indicated that defenseman Alexander Romanov and forward Jake Evans must go through the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. Brendan Gallagher was also absent with a lower body injury Thursday in the 4-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Romanov and Evans became the sixth and seventh players to be added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol during the Canadiens’ trip, swelling the total of COVID-19-related absentees to 16.
Even though Cam Hillis became the first former member of the Trois-Rivières Lions to play in the NHL, the Canadian started the game with 11 forwards and five defensemen in his lineup. To make matters worse, he lost the services of the Cédric Paquette center during the match.
Paquette was stunned by a blow to the head from Bennett early in the first period. He returned to play in the second period, but did not return to the bench after the second intermission. Head coach Dominique Ducharme said Paquette was bothered by neck pain.
Under the circumstances, the Canadian offered great opposition to the Panthers. However, the cream did come back up and the Canadian was unable to cause any surprise.
“I think our players have shown courage,” said Ducharme. I said we were to fight and we fought. “
Jonathan Drouin and Nick Suzuki hit the target for the Canadian (7-23-4). Sami Niku had two assists and Samuel Montembeault repelled 43 shots.
Aleksander Barkov, Frank Vatrano and Mason Marchment were the Panthers’ other scorers (21-7-4). Sam Reinhart had two assists and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 29 shots.
The Canadian had just one point – a 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning – during his three-game trip to the Southeastern United States (0-2-1).
“The conditions were tough, but we fought every night to make a difference, to try to get points,” said Ducharme. We would have liked to get more in Tampa. Five on five, we did a good job in Carolina. Tonight, we had the lead at mid-game. We were close at the start of the third period, but giving up a goal like that from the start was tough on morale. “
The Canadian now finds himself on hiatus until Jan. 12, when he visits the Boston Bruins. Five Habs home games have been postponed since they would have been presented in front of empty bleachers due to the measures imposed by Quebec’s public health to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the game, the Canadian also announced that he was taking a break from his activities until January 6 inclusively, as a preventive measure. This measure also affects the activities of the Rocket de Laval.
“With all the new cases that arise on a daily basis and for the health of all of our players and staff, we believe a break from activities is necessary at this point. This stoppage will give our players the time needed to get back to good health so that we can continue the season in a safe manner, ”said Habs vice-president of hockey operations, Jeff Gorton.
The game started badly for the Canadian, as the Panthers opened the scoring after 32 seconds of play. Bennett took advantage of a nice pass from Anthony Duclair to beat Montembeault.
The Canadian did not give up and got to work. Drouin tied the game at 3:48, deflecting a shot from Niku into the goal.
Montembeault stood out for the first time by going from two difficult saves in quick succession in front of Owen Tippett. The Habs goaltender was also alert later in the period, when Niku lost control of the disc in net and Bennett was able to shoot point blank.
At the other end of the ice, Michael Pezzetta got the best chance for the Habs before the end of the first twenty. Hillis joined him behind Panthers defenders and Pezzetta attempted to surprise Bobrovsky by passing his stick between his legs to shoot. The Panthers goalie made the save, however.
The Canadian received four minor penalties in the second period, but still took the lead at 9:29, when the teams were four on four. Suzuki capitalized on a comeback and was able to shoot into an open net.
The Panthers finally took advantage of the Habs’ indiscipline, creating a 2-2 power-play tie at 3:02 pm. Barkov hit home after a nice lift pass from Reinhart.
Reinhart then set the table for Vatrano at 5:30 pm and the Panthers were able to retreat to the locker room with a 3-2 lead.
The Panthers broke the back of the Canadiens by widening the gap after just 15 seconds of play in the third period. Bennett deflected a long shot from Mackenzie Weegar.
Marchment turned the iron in the wound, scoring in a two-on-one attack with 6:56 to go on the clock.
Nick Suzuki said the atmosphere was good for the Canadiens ahead of the meeting, despite the circumstances.
“The energy was good. We were excited to see (Cam) Hillis play a game opener. A lot of guys got the chance to play their first game recently. We knew our training and everyone was cheerful. Several players have been used a lot. “
Kale Clague stressed that the indiscipline had hurt the Habs.
“We spent a little too much time in the penalty box, but we played a pretty good game. They (the Panthers) took advantage of their chances and that’s why they won. “
Jonathan Drouin highlighted the contribution of Rafaël Harvey-Pinard during the last games.
“He’s talented, but he works hard. Even at 5-2, we saw him block two shots. This is the attitude we want in the team. He’s been successful in the American League and he will be successful in the National League. He works hard and has a good attitude. “