Aaron Ekblad finally got a bounce to go his way and it came at just the right time.
The stick of Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk broke in the Canadiens’ end, forcing the center to an early change. Just moments later, Ekblad broke his own stick when he fired a shot by Carey Price on the blocker side to give the Panthers a 4-3 victory in overtime, their second consecutive win that snapped Montreal’s home winning streak at 10 games.
“You’ll take those when you can get them. There’s plenty of times when it should go in and won’t, and I’ve been feeling that so far this season for sure,” Ekblad said. “Maybe a few of us or the team haven’t gotten those bounces but now that we did, we feel confident that we can take that with us [through the rest of the road trip].”
It hasn’t been the easiest of starts for the 20-year-old, with just two goals and no assists next to his name heading into Tuesday’s game. But as the Panthers hoped Saturday’s win over the Islanders would build some momentum, perhaps the goal could do the same for Ekblad.
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“I sure hope so because he’s had a tough go so far,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “Aaron’s a guy that gets a lot of points. He’s got three goals so far, he wants to get more points and get more on the board. Sometimes a goal like that will turn things around.”
It’s the first time since the first two games of the season that the Panthers (8-7-1) have posted consecutive wins, and improved the club’s record in overtime to 4-0 this season.
The Panthers are 0-1 in shootouts this season, losing at Tampa Bay in the third game of the year.
Alex Petrovic, Kyle Rau and Denis Malgin scored in regulation while Roberto Luongo stood tall in goal, making 34 saves.
The Panthers found themselves down early, thanks to Montreal’s streaking power play. With Jaromir Jagr in the box, Montreal’s Max Pacioretty put Montreal ahead at 2:12 of the first period.
Petrovic tied it a few minutes later when he picked off the Canadiens’ clearing attempt and fired a shot from the slot.
With family and friends in the crowd, Montreal native Michael Matheson set the table for the Panthers’ first lead of the night. Matheson, from the suburb of Pointe-Claire, Quebec, won a battle behind the Canadiens’ net and sent a backhand feed to Rau, alone in the slot.
“I think there were three or four guys right around me and I figured somebody’s got to be open out there,” Matheson said.
“The second it left my stick, though, there was part of me that was like, ‘What did you just do?’ ” he added with a laugh.
Montreal tied it at 4:22 of the second when David Desharnais was left uncovered in the left circle.
From there, the Panthers found themselves on their heels as the Canadiens held them without a shot for nearly 10 minutes. But Luongo held the fort as Montreal bombarded him with 21 shots in the middle frame.
“He was huge for us in the second period. Montreal really dominated that period,” Gallant said. “We had a lot of turnovers and didn’t really like that period at all. At that time, Loui really kept us in the game.”
Jussi Jokinen ended that drought and Reilly Smith came within inches of restoring the lead, forcing Price into a diving save. The puck squeaked through to the other side but Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry was first to the puck to clear it from the crease.
Malgin restored the lead at 17:42 when he fooled Price with a shot from the circle, beating the netminder glove side.
Luongo thought he had control of a save on Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher but Paul Byron poked it through to tie the score at 5:46 of the third period.