It was a déjà-vu in Florida, Sunrise for the Habs fan. After poor showings in the last few games, Montreal finally got off to a good start jumping to a 2-0 lead but slowly disappeared as the game went on.
This was a special night for Stephen Weiss, who was honoured before the game for becoming the franchise leader in games played. He celebrated by being in Montreal’s face all night long. He ended the night with two goals and an assist.
Montreal started the game like Lions taming the Panthers outshooting them 8-0 and taking a 2-0 lead. But once they jumped to the two-goal lead, they faded away and the Panthers slowly took over the game controlling every aspect of it.
During a 4 on 4, David Desharnais beat two Florida players after sweeping in from the side boards to push his own rebound behind Scott Clemmensen, who had a shaky start. Desharnais benefited from an aggressive forecheck by Alexei Emelin and a superb spin move by Eric Cole (Yes! Him Again) on Florida’s blue line before sliding the puck to Desharnais.
Roughly two minutes later, Montreal got handed a full two-man advantage, once again courtesy of Cole and Emelin. P.K. Subban, who hadn’t scored in the previous 26 games, took advantage as he faked a shot to walk in the slot wristing a bullet past Clemmensen with Max Pacioretty parked in front.
Budaj, who wasn’t tested much, came up with a big save on Weiss, left alone in the slot. It didn’t take long for Weiss to get that one back, as on the ensuing face-off, he jumped on the rebound beating Josh Gorges to the puck to make it a one-goal game. Budaj was solid between the pipes and made big saves to keep his team in the match. His biggest save came on Thomas Fleischmann on a breakaway with the clock ticking down on the period. Subban got called for slashing on the play as Ryan White and Erik Gudbranson decided to perform a little dance at center ice with Gudbranson emerging as the winner.
Budaj, who was excellent in the first period, handed a gift early in the period while his team was still short a man. Sean Bergenheim broke on the left flank and took a shot from a sharp angle that somehow eluded Budaj to tie the game at two. If the air hadn’t leaked out of Montreal’s Balloon after the first goal, this goal clearly deflated the balloon. Montreal only managed four shots in the period with two shots coming towards the end of the period when Montreal enjoyed back-to-back powerplays.
By then Weiss had given the first lead to his team when he out battled Emelin in front of Budaj who gave a big rebound on Mikael Samuelsson’s sharp angle shot. Weiss literally jumped on the rebound and was in air when he pushed the puck behind Budaj. Just like the first period, Budaj had to make 2-3 huge saves towards the end of the period as his team got outshot 13-4 in the period.
Brian Campbell was the lone player to beat Budaj with a shot that had eyes deflecting on two Montreal players before lodging behind Budaj. Montreal came close to getting that one back as Raphael Diaz had a partial breakaway after exiting the penalty box only to hit the dreaded post on right of Clemmensen. Diaz did a great job controlling the bouncing puck twice but that was as close the Habs would get to Clemmensen. The Habs visit the Tampa Bay Lightning following the trade deadline after perhaps trading away some of the pending UFAs and perhaps then they can concentrate on playing better hockey.
HiD Three Stars
- Stephen Weiss
- Sean Bergenheim
- Mikael Samuelsson
HiD Turning Point
Florida's started to push back halfway through the second and they never looked back.