After ending their season-worst losing streak in dramatic fashion, the Florida Panthers will look to remain in the win column when they visit the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
The Panthers were on an 0-4-0 skid and were approaching a fifth straight loss as they trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 late in the third period on Wednesday. However, Sam Reinhart equalized on a power-play goal with one minute remaining in regulation, and Brandon Montour completed the comeback with the overtime winner.
Florida (37-31-7, 81 points) is now just one point back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second Eastern Conference wild-card position. The Penguins have the advantage of a game at hand over Florida.
While Wednesday’s victory breathed some new life into the Panthers’ playoff race, “We’re not in it yet,” Montour told Bally Sports Florida.
“That’s a big win (to) get the energy and we’ve got another tough game (Thursday),” Montour said. “That’s just the way we’ve got to keep going. Seven games left, collect as many (points) as we can, and see where we go.”
Beyond the importance of netting an overtime winner, Montour also put him into the franchise record books. The tally was his 63rd point of the season, setting a single-season mark for a Panthers defenseman.
With Florida playing games on consecutive days, backup goaltender Alex Lyon might have started anyway against Toronto or Montreal. However, Sergei Bobrovsky had a non-COVID illness, pressing Lyon into action on Wednesday, and he delivered an outstanding, 38-save performance.
Bobrovsky will start against the Canadiens if healthy, but the Panthers face a tricky decision if the veteran goaltender isn’t able to play. Lyon might get the nod for the second day in a row, since Mack Guzda (called up from the AHL Charlotte on Wednesday) has never played in an NHL game.
The Canadiens (30-39-6, 66 points) are in last place in the Atlantic Division, and they will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Montreal can only play spoiler at this point, though Florida has had the Canadiens’ number this season. The Panthers have won all three previous games between the two clubs, outscoring Montreal by a lopsided 22-9 margin.
On Tuesday, the Canadiens and the Flyers were tied 1-1 with three minutes remaining before Philadelphia scored twice within a 29-second span. Rafael Harvey-Pinard scored to bring Montreal within one goal with 23 seconds remaining, but it wasn’t enough in a 3-2 loss.
Playing their second game in as many days, the Canadiens “just didn’t have the jump that we needed to create a little bit more,” forward Brendan Gallagher said. “Give (the Flyers) credit, they were sound in their structure and made it really tough on us. They made a play at the end.”
Gallagher has three goals and one assist during a three-game goals streak.
Montreal forward Kirby Dach is questionable to face the Panthers after missing Tuesday’s game due to an upper-body injury.
Either Sam Montembeault or Jake Allen likely will get the start against Florida. Cayden Primeau was sent back to AHL Laval after stopping 24 of 26 Philadelphia shots on Tuesday.
–Field Level Media