|4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ETNaN:� BRT, February 17, 2019
BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida Attendance: 16,212
Habs seek third win over Panthers in three months
When the Canadiens visit the Panthers on Sunday night, two of the more underrated players in the league will be on display, Montreal's Phillip Danault and Florida's Frank Vatrano.
Danault, a Quebec native who turns 26 on Feb. 24, ranks sixth on the Canadiens with 11 goals. However, he ranks second on the club with 38 points at even strength, a total that is just one behind those of NHL stars Evgeni Malkin and Auston Matthews.
"Phillip is playing good hockey," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "We rely on him a lot. We give him a lot of responsibility, taking important faceoffs late in the game. He's an extremely useful player."
Vatrano, who started the season on Florida's fourth line but now leads the team with 18 even-strength goals, has been a pleasant surprise for the Panthers.
The Massachusetts native who turns 25 next month has already set career highs with 19 overall goals and 30 points this season. He would love to get his 20th goal of the season against the Canadiens, a team that has handled the Panthers in each of the first two meetings this season.
On Dec. 28, the Canadiens defeated the host Panthers 5-3 in a close game that included an empty-net goal. On Jan. 15, host Montreal routed Florida 5-1, with Danault scored the go-ahead goal to make the score 2-1.
Some trends in Sunday's game tend to favor the Canadiens.
For the season, Montreal's best period is the third, outscoring opponents 58-49.
For the season, Florida's worst period is the third, getting outscored by opponents 79-50.
Montreal is 4-5-0 this season on the second game of back-to-back contests, but that includes the 5-1 victory over Florida.
The Panthers, who are 7-4-0 in their past 11 games, are coming off a 3-2 shootout win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
Florida will be better rested on Sunday as compared to Montreal, which lost 3-0 to the Lightning on Saturday night. All three Tampa Bay goals came in the final 20 minutes.
"I think it was pretty obvious, we cracked in the third," Julien said. "I thought we played a good 40 minutes, and we might have been a little bit better than them in scoring chances. Every coach is going to tell you we need to learn from that. We do need to learn from that. We need to be better in those situations."
The Panthers have alternated their starting goalie in each of their past four games, and, if that trend holds, Roberto Luongo will be in the lineup on Sunday.
Panthers backup goalie James Reimer -- who is more like 1B to Luongo's 1A -- beat Calgary on Thursday with a season-high 41-save performance. In addition, Reimer stopped two of three shots in the shootout, and he had five saves on the Flames' power plays.
"He was our best killer out there," Panthers center Vinny Trocheck said of his team's 4-for-4 performance on the PK.
It was a big night for Reimer, who had been pulled after two periods in his previous start and was riding a two-game losing streak into the Flames contest.
As for the Florida offense, Mike Hoffman leads the team with 26 goals, including one Thursday.
"A great goal," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said of Hoffman's blistering wrist shot that carried over Mike Smith's glove. "That's the Mike Hoffman specialty, looking in the goalie's eyes and blowing it by him."
Hoffman is closing in on his first 30-goal season. He also leads the Panthers with 11 power-play goals, five game-winners and 178 shots on goal.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 17, 2019