The Florida Panthers scored two goals in the span of less than three minutes of the second period and then held on to steal a 2-1 victory out of the Bell Centre Sunday night. Jesse Winchester and Nick Bjugstad scored the Panthers goals. Alex Galchenyuk scored on a third period power play. Florida then survived back to back overlapping penalties to nail down the win. Shots on goal were 25-18 in favour of the Panthers. The game’s three stars were Bjugstad, Galchenyuk and Florida defenceman Brian Campbell.
Adding It Up –
In a Nutshell – For the eighth game in a row, and the sixth against a sub-.500 team, the Canadiens struggled. The current problems were spelled out in the third period. Alex Galchenyuk scored a power play goal to make it 2-1 with 17 ½ minutes remaining in regulation time. The rest of the game, including overlapping power plays that included 35 seconds of 5-on-3, they could muster only two shots on goal.
No Gas In The Tank – Michel Therrien pointed out in his post game news conference that the Canadiens were played their 11th game in less than three weeks (actually 19 days), and added, ““Energy wise, I could tell they’re drained. And when you’re drained, there’s no more juice. Physically, you’re tired. When you’re physically tired, your execution is not quite there. You make bad decisions mentally.” Therrien has learned to spin a loss as well as anyone, but in this, it’s hard to disagree. The last two nights were terrible to watch.
The Reality – This was actually the eighth straight game the Canadiens game was off the rails. The miracle may be the fact that they are 5-3-0 over that stretch. All five of the wins have been by a single goal, and outside of that 6-0 mess against the Kings, their losses have also been by a goal. The Therrien system allowed them to win the first four games of the stretch but they have now dropped three of the last four.
On the Positive Side – Over the last eight games, nobody can complain about the defensive side of their game. Including the 6-0 LA game, they’ve given up 18 goals over the last eight games, which works out to 2.25 per game.
Shoot The Puck – It’s about the offense. Over their last 24 full periods the Canadiens have managed to go into double figures in shots only goal five times. Shots on goal can be a deceptive stat, until it becomes epidemic. In this game the Habs shots by period were 8-4-6. Another indication of a team with little drive push back.
Man Advantage – In today’s “New NHL” if you don’t have a power play, you don’t win…plain and simple. When it works, as it did for the Canadiens through the first third of the season, teams win. Galchenyuk’s goal ended a six-game 0-for-16 drought. Then they messed the bed on their last two chances, mustering only one shot in a stretch that included those 35 seconds of five-on-three.
Too Much of a Good Thing – It’s become a banner statistic in recent weeks – P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov have been on the ice for 2/3rd’s of Canadiens goals. They are the motor that drives the Canadiens offense. They are also playing 25 minutes a game and the last week or so, there has been a serious dip in their on-ice decision making. Subban got an assist on the Galcheyuk goal, his first point in seven games. Markov has just one assist his last seven games as well.
Also Worth Mentioning - ……After eight starts on the road, Peter Budaj played his first game of the season at the Bell Centre. He played well and would have had to be a miracle worker to have prevented either goal. ……Alex Galchenyuk has the young legs and has been the Canadiens best forward through the last four or five games. The goal was his 10th, one more than he scored in his 48 game rookie season. He’s third on the team’s goalscoring list behind Pacioretty (12) and Plekanec (11). ……..The work ethic and aggressiveness hasn’t diminished but Brendan Gallagher finds himself in a ten game goalscoring drought during which he has one assist….. The other thing to come out of the Therrien news conference; George Parros has in fact, another concussion, his second in 75 days. The team is evaluating his situation daily. ……… And for the statistians: only three Canadiens had more than one shot on goal, Subban (4), Pacioretty (3) and Galchenyuk (2). Subban and Douglas Murray had five hits apiece and Gorges blocked 4 shots. Daniel Briere won five of six faceoffs.
Moving On – The Canadiens will make it 12 games in an even three weeks when they host the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday. Then it’s six in a row on the road; interrupted after two by a six day Christmas break.