The Montreal Canadiens continue their road trip with a game against the Florida Panthers tonight in a matchup of teams who have found difficulty in closing out games. Whichever team can avoid completely handing the game away will likely be the team to earn two points.
For Montreal, they are coming off a shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in one of the least impressive wins of the season. Montreal was “almost perfect for 54 minutes,” according to coach Michel Therrien, but that last six minutes were troubling. In the final six minutes of the third period, Montreal allowed three goals, which erased a 3-0 lead and sent the game to overtime where the Lightning were able to walk away with at least one point.
Their struggles were just a continuation of the team’s inability to press an advantage. In three of the team’s last four games, Montreal has scored first with the lone exception being their shutout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite that early production, however, the Canadiens have only one win to show for it thanks to their shootout victory on Tuesday.
Carey Price, sporting a gaudy 3.59 goals-against average in his last three starts, recognizes there is room for improvement, even if they happen to win:
“At the end of the day, as long as we’re getting wins, that’s what really matter. But, it would be nice to close one out, that’s for sure.”
And it hasn’t been much better for Florida. The Panthers have either scored first or held a multiple-goal lead in three of its last four contests, and it also only has a single shootout win to show for it. On Tuesday, Florida held a two-goal third-period advantage over the Washington Capitals before losing 6-5 in overtime after letting in three unanswered goals to end the game.
Panthers’ rookie Drew Shore didn’t like the feeling of that lead slipping away:
“It’s kind of a tough pill to swallow, especially (because) we know how in this season, every point is important. We let one slip away.”
So now a pair of Eastern Conference foes face off with plenty of room for improvement. The Panthers hope they get back to their dominant ways over Montreal after seeing their four-game winning streak over the Canadiens snapped back on January 22 in the Bell Centre. Montreal hopes they can get out to another hot start and actually keep a lead like they did the last time these two teams played when they came out on top 4-1.
In the end, whichever team plays the best hockey late (an issue for both recently) will be the recipient of two precious points.