Montreal 6, Florida 2:
- Tim Raines comes out to drop the puck, and gets a thunderous applause. Great moment. Can't hardly wait for the day the Expos return to Montreal.
- Kind of a big game tonight for Reto Berra, who's trying to prove himself as a capable NHL goaltender. Guys who are playing for their careers can sometimes be especially difficult to beat.
- Berra looks pretty nervous, sure sign of that in a goaltender is how frequently he flops on his belly to make a save. Berra just got away with one with the Shaw line swarming the cage.
- Emelin (stop the presses!!!) makes a very nice behind the back pass to help set up a nice play eventually ending with an uncovered Paul Byron, who fires an easy one past Berra for his 21st of the season. 1-0 Habs.
- Panthers look like a pretty unenergized bunch. Sometimes you'll see these eliminated teams play a loose and relaxed game, or by contrast, a demoralized game. Florida looking very much more the later than the former, so far.
- You know it's bad when Thomas Plekanec scores on you - Gallagher picks up his second assist. His play continues to advance nicely since his return from that hand injury.
- I think it's fair to say the Plekanec line is on fire. Byron with his 2nd tonight, Gallagher picks up yet another assist. Berra really hung out to dry - feel badly for him.
- Panthers defence is playing some pretty inexcusable hockey. So many missed checks, indifferent positioning, virtually zero physicality. I'd be very irked coaching behind their bench.
- 2-0 through 20 minutes. Incredible period for the Plekanec line, Emelin and Beaulieu were also especially good. Panthers throwing in the towel, which is a shame. Makes for a pretty uninteresting game.
- Lopsided 1st period, Habs SA CF (5v5): 64.4%.
- Heat map is even worse. Poor Reto Berra. He never stood a chance:
- Plekaenc line at it again, they draw Habs first powerplay. Hard to figure out where this is all coming from. The line has been playing well the past little while, but not nearly at the level we're seeing tonight.
- One thing is clear, if you're going to dive, don't do it in front of, or around, Max Pacioretty.
- Another dubious penalty on Weber for a slash. Sure looks like the Panthers are trying to work their way into this one via dramatics. Refs are biting.
- Habs, perhaps with small measure of justice on their side, kill of an extended Panthers 2 man advantage. Carey Price looks as good as ever with his lateral movement, and that Habs PK also unrecognizable in comparison to it's play pre-Claude Julien.
- Whoops, Smith with a shot along the ice that may have got Price off guard. His reaction (Price's) appears like "damn, missed it." 3-1 with 9 minutes left in the period.
- Habs winning a lot in March in spite of having a pretty awful 4th line (self-inflicted via some poor acquisitions). That line not any better tonight, Martinsen and King are in way, way over their NHL heads. No way either of these two should be in any post-season lineup.
- Officiating chaos right now. Brad Watson up to his usual self.
- So Thornton, for reasons unbeknownst to anyone, skates over and hammers Emelin in the face, and Emelin is charged with an extra penalty.
- Ott given 10 minute misconduct for mouthing off to the refs. So that's an addition via subtraction.
- Panthers powerplay is tres terrible! Even with the gift-wrapped calls, they're still going though the motions.
- Emelin got an extra 2 minutes for this. He may (or may not) have made contact with MacKenzie's face with his elbow. If so, then yeah, there's your extra 2.
Emelin/Mackenzie kerfuffle pic.twitter.com/mAzgg05rko— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) March 31, 2017
- With Ott out and sitting in the dressing room, Julien rotating in an extra body into that 4th line. Plekanec just did a shift with King and Martinsen. But really, it's all just clock killing hockey. Julien really needs to settle on what he's going to do, specifically, who he'll scratch come playoff time. Really find it hard to believe that either Ott, King or Martinsen are capable of playing without hurting their team.
- Lehkonen looks great. Gallagher looks even better. This is good news. Galchenyuk, however, still not meshing well with Andrew Shaw. I'm sure Julien is wary of moving Danault away from Pacioretty and Radulov, but as the Habs lineup currently stands, Galchenyuk is more or less a lost asset.
- Chippy 2nd period, Panthers doing a good job trolling the Habs into retaliation stuff, which gave Florida a ton of man advantage time. Still, this game isn't nearly in threat for the Canadiens, who merely need to play one more smart period of hockey, and then they can book their playoff tickets.
- Florida got a mess of powerplay time in that 2nd period, helping them to narrow shot totals, but at even strength, period was a wash, which is exactly what Montreal was wanting.
- Pacioetty hits the 35 goal mark for the 4th time in his excellent career. Sweet perfect pass by Radulov (is he turning things around from a recent slump?) to make that goal possible. Panthers are cooked, even though they continue to embellish and whine for more powerplay time.
- Matheson makes it a 2 goal game, after Emelin makes a poor puck play from his own corner, attempting to clear the zone by playing the puck the opposite side. Puck kept in at the line, and 5 seconds later, it's 4-2. It's the little plays/errors that kill you - and Emelin is a specialist.
- Habs really slowing the pace down, no real interest in regaining that 3 goal margin. Bella still doing belly flops, you'd figure there's at least one more goal to be had. 7 minutes left.
- Gallagher, and there's that one more goal. Beautiful deflection off a Davidson shot, four point night for Brendan, a career high for a single game.
- Danault, 6-2. But that goal was all Radulov stealing the puck and feeding another perfect pass in front. Florida's defence a war crime tonight.
- Game wasn't really in doubt from start to finish. The Habs official punch their ticket to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
HABS HAVE THE DOOR WIDE OPEN BECAUSE THE PANTHERS HAVE GIVEN UP ON THEIR SEASON
Hey, just 6 games left in the regular schedule. Just two weeks before more than 1/2 of the NHL closes up shop for the summer, which just so happens to include the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers, for a fleeting moment, had aspirations of making the playoffs after having a decent run through the months of January and February. By the beginning of March, Florida were at 68 points, were just one point back of the Leafs for the 2nd wildcard spot.
Since then? Not good. The Panthers have won only 4 games in March, and have fallen 9 points behind the Bruins for that last wildcard spot, with only a half-dozen games left to play.
So while Florida confines themselves to booking golf vacations this spring, the Habs by contrast, are on the cusp of mathematically clinching a playoff spot tonight. A win, either regulation or OT, will ensure the Canadiens a date for extra hockey beginning either April 12th or 13th.
So here are some pregame notes, in neat point form:
- Florida's lineup tonight:
- Despite Florida's season going into the toilet this month, it hasn't stopped center Alexsander Barkov from producing. Barkov has 6 points over his last 5 games. At least somebody still cares.
- Panthers are riding a 2 game losing streak, both losses coming to the hands of the Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. Previous to that, the Panthers decimated the first place Chicago Black Hawks 7-0. Hockey is funny that way.
- Habs have some lineup adjustments, mainly because of minor injuries.
- Jordie Benn won't play tonight because of a day-to-day injury (undisclosed, of course). Ergo the Davidson start.
- Habs 4th line tonight will be as awful as awful gets. Amazing this team still wins with essentially only 9 qualified NHL forwards in their lineup.
- Al (Tony) Montoya is still unable to play because of an LBI. Habs recalled Charlie Lindgren as backup. Carey Price wasn't slotted to play tonight, but will because of the Montoya injury. It's likely that Lindgren will get a start in Florida this weekend if Montoya isn't able to return.
- Starting netminders are Reto Berra for Florida (2.22/.907) against Price (2.23/.924).
- Last time for the people of Montreal to see Jaromir Jagr in action? Tonight might be that night.
- Puck drops at 7:40, EST.