They were selling standing room only tickets Monday evening at BankAtlantic Center for the Panthers game against the Canadiens, and it was an electric, boisterous crowd of 20,741 that filled the BAC.
Unfortunately, the Panthers couldn’t quiet the Canadiens or their fans on this night after Maxim Lapierre scored a natural hat trick to give the Canadiens a 5-2 victory.
After Michael Frolik gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 5:18 of the first period, Alex Kovalev scored a power play goal at 10:27 of the first period and Tomas Plekanec scored a short-handed goal at 1:30 of the second to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead.
David Booth tied the game with his 15th of the season at 6:49 of the second and then, less than two minutes later, the Panthers found themselves on a 5-on-3 power play for 1:39.
“Maybe if we capitalize on the power play, on that five on three especially, we have the lead instead of them and the game goes the right way,” mused Stephen Weiss.
But the Panthers couldn’t convert, and that’s when Lapierre went to work.
Mayors is the Official Jeweler of the Florida Panthers, please visit www.mayors.com or your local South Florida Mayors location.
Lapierre scored the first of his three goals at 16:01 of the second period. After trying to jam the puck past starting goalie Craig Anderson on one side, Lapierre collected the puck after Anderson stopped him and skated around to the other side of the net. Anderson’s stick got caught in the net and he couldn’t get over in time to make the stop.
Just 2:40 into the third period, Lapierre struck again with a blast from inside the blue line that beat Anderson, who was immediately taken out of the game by coach Peter DeBoer in favor of Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun was on the bench for an extra attacker when Lapierre scored his third goal of the game into an empty net.
The Panthers, who were 9-2-3 before the Christmas break, are 0-2-1 since returning, have allowed 15 goals in those three games, and DeBoer has lifted his starting goalie in two of the last three games. But the Panthers remain only two points from the eighth playoff spot.
DeBoer gave the Canadiens credit after Monday’s game. “I don’t think there’s any doubt they were the better, faster, more skilled team,” he said.
“They skate great and move the puck well,” said Brett McLean. “We didn’t consistently play our game.”
On his decision to take Anderson out of the net after allowing the fourth goal – it was Anderson’s first start in six games and he allowed the four goals on 20 shots - DeBoer said it was to try and create a spark.
“We need a save,” he said. “We had some pressure down in their end and they come down and score a goal. It’s not a great goal to give up at that point in the game. I think Andy knows that. At that point you’re reaching to try and get some kind of spark out of your team, so I don’t have a lot more of an explanation than that.”
The Panthers leave South Florida Tuesday afternoon for a four-game road trip that will take them Wednesday to Long Island before stops in Pittsburgh, Montreal and Toronto.
“We have to get our game back and starting climbing again,” McLean said.
The Panthers are now 0-13-3 when trailing after two periods… Gregory Campbell won 10 of 15 faceoffs, Weiss 10 of 16 and Nathan Horton six of eight… Horton had four hits, Jay Bouwmeester five… The Canadiens blocked 16 shots compared to the Panthers six… Jassen Cullimore was back in the lineup after missing three games with a hand injury… With Kamil Kreps out with an upper-body injury, Noah Welch was the healthy scratch… Rostislav Olesz skated Tuesday morning for the first time since injurying his groin back on Dec. 6. “It’s a first step,” DeBoer said. Olesz has missed 11 games with the injury…
1 - 0 FLA
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 MTL
2 - 2 Tie