GAME PREVIEW: CANADIENS (21-14-3) @ PANTHERS (20-12-4)
TV: RDS, SN-E – 7:30 p.m. EST
The Canadiens’ eight-game road trip rolls on with a tilt against the Atlantic Division rival Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at BB&T Center in Sunrise.
Michel Therrien’s troops are coming off an important win in Tampa on Monday night, one that snapped a six-game losing streak and did a world of good for the group as a whole. After surrendering a 2-1 lead and then falling behind all in a span of 21 seconds with under seven minutes remaining in the third period, Dale Weise scored the equalizer 32 seconds later to send the game into overtime. Three-on-three play solved nothing, so the game would ultimately be decided in a shootout. Brian Flynn and Max Pacioretty both lit the lamp on Lightning netminder Ben Bishop to secure a 4-3 victory at Amalie Arena. Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk also scored in regulation time, as the Canadiens put up at least three goals on the board for just the second time in the last 12 games. For his part, Mike Condon notched his 10th win of the season with an impressive 36-save performance.
Monday night’s win pushed the Canadiens past the Panthers by a single point for top spot in the Atlantic Division. Gerard Gallant’s squad has rattled off six straight victories, including three straight amidst a six-game homestand. Interestingly enough, it marks the franchise’s longest winning streak since 2008. In their last outing on Sunday, the Panthers bested the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on the strength of two goals by Aleksander Barkov and another by Aaron Ekblad. Jonathan Huberdeau – who ranks second on the Panthers with 23 points, two back of leader Jaromir Jagr – chipped in with a pair of assists. Roberto Luongo, meanwhile, made 15 saves to register his 15th win of the year.
Condon will get the night off in Sunrise as Ben Scrivens makes his Canadiens debut just one day after being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Zack Kassian. Scrivens, who joined the team in Tampa on Monday morning, hit the ice at Amalie Arena for a brief workout with goaltending coach Stephane Waite just hours after touching down in the Sunshine State. Unable to secure a spot with the Oilers out of training camp, the 29-year-old netminder has been plying his trade with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors and will be making his first start of the year in the NHL ranks. Scrivens, who made his NHL debut back in 2011-12 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, boasts 129 games of NHL experience. He has a 3-1-0 record, 1.84 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in five career appearances against the Panthers.
Tuesday night’s contest marks the first of four regular season meetings between the two teams. In 2014-15, the Canadiens strung together a 4-0-1 record against the Panthers, including a pair of regulation wins.
Historically, the Canadiens have played good hockey in Sunrise this time of year, putting up a .500 record in South Florida in their 10 previous year-end meetings with the Panthers.
If they do manage to come out on top in front of snowbirds aplenty at BB&T Center, the Canadiens will have swept their Florida-based opponents in late December for the fourth time, having previously accomplished the feat in the 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 campaigns.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST.
A world of good
Au revoir, Mr. Moore