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5 Takeaways: Montembeault Shines in Shootout Loss to Islanders

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

4/4/19 Post Game Interviews

4/4/19 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Jonathan Huberdeau and Sam Montembeault

  • 00:45 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - Sam Montembeault saved the best for last.

Making what is believed to be his final start of the 2018-19 season, the 22-year-old goaltender pieced together the best outing of his budding career for the Florida Panthers, stopping a career-high 35 of 36 shots in a hard-fought 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders at BB&T Center on Thursday night.

"He gave us a chance," Boughner said. "We were obviously not very good for the first 25-30 minutes of the game, but he held us in there. He gave us a chance to eventually get the point, and almost two. I thought him and [Islanders goalie Thomas] Greiss were two of the best players on the ice."

In a low-scoring game, the Panthers took a while to find their offense, registering just 16 shots on goal over the first two periods combined. Heading into the third period, they also found themselves in a 1-0 hole after Brock Nelson found the back of the net just 1:50 into the middle frame to finally break the ice.

Much as it has been all season, the Panthers' goal eventually came on the power play, when Jonathan Huberdeau finished off a gorgeous stretch pass from Keith Yandle to get the game knotted at 1-1 with 7:15 remaining in regulation. On the other end of tonight's goalie battle, Greiss finished with 29 saves.

"He was unbelievable," Huberdeau said of Montembeault's outstanding performance. "[The Islanders] are a good team. They're in the playoffs and work really hard. They had a lot of chances, but Monty, in overtime too, shut the door. He's going to be a really good goalie and we're glad to have him."

With the secondary assist on Huberdeau's goal, Montembeault also picked up his first NHL point.

"It was a point night for me," the young goalie said, flashing a big smile.

Following a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout, where Montembeault stopped the first three shooters he faced before Nelson finally managed to slip one past him again to secure the 2-1 final. With Roberto Luongo expected to start in Saturday's finale, Montembeault finishes with a 4-3-2 record.

"He should be proud of his stint that he's had here," Boughner said of Montembeault's rookie campaign. "He's proven to a lot of people that he's capable of being a solid goaltender in the NHL. He's young. He's got his whole career ahead of him, but he's definitely put his foot in the right direction."

Here are five takeaways from Thursday's shootout loss in Sunrise..

1. MONTEM-BOW

You can officially put a Montem-bow on an encouraging NHL stint for the rookie.

Making his first start after being pulled during the first period of a 7-5 loss in Toronto on March 25, the former third-round pick was on his game from start to finish against the Islanders. Of his career-high 35 saves, 16 came during the first period in which he made stop after stop to keep New York off the board.

"I was seeing the puck well," Montembeault said. "I got pulled in my last start, so it was important for me to come back strong today with a good performance. We did a good job. We didn't give up that many odd-man rushes. It was a lot of point shots for them. I was able to see the puck and make saves."

Video: NYI@FLA: Montembeault turns away tricky deflection

According to NaturalStatTrick.com, Montembeault turned away all 11 high-danger shots he faced.

"It's always different," Montembeault said. "I've never played against these guys before. Every team that I play is a new challenge with new players. Lou has always helped me on this with some advice."

Of the 10 starts he made this season, Montembeault, who made his NHL debut on March 3, finished with a save percentage of .917 or better in half of them. Hoping to earn a spot with the Panthers once again next season, he hopes that ending on a high note like tonight will lead to a very strong summer.

"It's obviously good for your confidence going into summer," Montembeault said. "It's important for me to have a great summer on and off the ice. I want to come back to training camp and be ready."

2. A 90s KID

Huberdeau's career-best season just keeps getting better.

With the Panthers on the power play, the 25-year-old winger took an absolutely superb stretch pass from Yandle and burst into the offensive zone with speed before slipping the puck under Greiss' pads on a breakaway to tie the game 1-1 at 12:45 of the third period.

Video: NYI@FLA: Huberdeau knots score in 3rd with PPG

Huberdeau now stands as just the fourth player in franchise history to reach the elusive 90-point mark, joining Pavel Bure, Olli Jokinen and Aleksander Barkov. Additionally, with Barkov sitting at 94 points, Florida has joined Edmonton and Tampa as the only teams with multiple 90-point players this season.

"Obviously it's nice, a career-high in points," Huberdeau said. "It's a good year, but like I said before, points is points and I'd rather have 60 points and be in the playoffs. It doesn't really matter right now."

Ranking second in NHL scoring since Feb. 17, Huberdeau has tallied 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) over his last 25 games. Thanks to that incendiary stretch, he's reached new career-high totals in points (90), goals (29) and assists (61). His assist total also currently stands as the most in a season by a Panther.

"Every year I want to be better," Huberdeau said. "I want to be good offensively. I've been good my whole life. Every year I've gotten better; more consistent this year, I feel. I've just got to keep going for the next years and be better, defensively as well, so we can have a shot at the playoffs next year."

3. A LOT TO YANDLE

I'll say it again - how about that stretch pass from Yandle? Wow.

As he has done all season, the savvy veteran showed why he's one of the best in the league in terms of providing offense from the blue line. With his smooth assist on Huberdeau's goal, Yandle pushed his franchise-record point total on the power play to 39, which is also the third-most in the NHL this season.

"We talked about it after the second [period]," Huberdeau said of the pass. "We had a chance, we saw the hole, and he's really good at that. It's not the first one he's given to me. In Calgary, he did the same thing. It was a nice pass, and I just had to go on a breakaway."

The quarterback of Florida's second-ranked power play, Yandle ranks first among the team's blueliners in both points (61) and assists (52). Additionally, his 61 points are the most by a defenseman in a season in franchise history. He is just the 14th U.S.-born defenseman in NHL history to reach the 60-point mark.

4. KILLING THEM SOFTLY

Florida's penalty kill was on point tonight.

Entering the evening with the 11th-ranked unit in the NHL at 81.1 percent, the Panthers went a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill against the Islanders, improving to a solid 12-for-12 over their last five games.

The defensive duo of Aaron Ekblad and Mike Matheson led the team in shorthanded ice time with 3:43 apiece on the kill. As for Montembeault, he denied the only three power-play shots that came his way.

5. ONE LAST RIDE

It's amazing how fast the season flew by.

With 81 games already in the books, the Panthers will wave goodbye to their 2018-19 campaign on Saturday, when the New Jersey Devils visit BB&T Center for what should be an exciting season finale.

In addition to all of the action happening on the ice, numerous gifts such as tickets to upcoming concerts and shows, electronics, gift cards and much, much more will be handed out to random fans throughout the game in honor of the team's annual "Fan Appreciation Night," which is being presented by Walmart.

Need another reason to come to the game? Florida has won each of its last four regular-season finales.

Want to be part of the action? Visit FloridaPanthers.com/TicketCentral!

BONUS: HITS FOR HOWIE

Jayce Hawryluk was hitting everything that moved tonight. Sitting second on the Panthers in hits per game this season (2.2), the 23-year-old rookie posted a game-high nine hits against the Islanders. That total also blew past his previous career-high total of five out of the water. Also, in a bit of cool trivia, he has at least one hit in

40 of the 42 games he's played this year.

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