With the Presidents’ Trophy locked up, the Florida Panthers gave the majority of their core Friday night off.
And it was ‘Friday Night Light ‘em up’ for the Canadiens.
The Panthers, playing a meaningless game after wowing for much of the first 81, found themselves down three goals in the first 4:30 — and it did not get much better from there.
The Canadiens gave their fans something to celebrate in a season they would like to forget, scoring eight goals in the first two periods en route to a 10-2 victory.
Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Sergei Bobrovsky, Radko Gudas and Claude Giroux all got their second consecutive night off after sitting out Thursday’s 4-0 win in Ottawa.
Friday night, a few others joined them.
And why not?
The games the Panthers cared about are coming next as Florida will open the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Washington Capitals next week.
Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart were both pulled from the lineup after recording two points in the Ottawa win which ended up clinching the Presidents’ Cup.
The Panthers dressed Anton Lundell and Gus Forsling, who both did not play on Thursday, but they did not touch the ice either.
Jonas Johansson got his first start since making his Florida debut on Feb. 24.
In that loss to Columbus, Johansson gave up five goals on 27 shots.
Somehow, this one was worse.
The Canadiens started the scoring 1:57 into the game as 21-year-old defenseman Jordan Harris got his first NHL goal off of a shot from the point that bounced off of Matt Kiersted and into the net.
Mike Hoffman picked up a loose rebound that squeaked behind Johansson and poked it in just over two minutes later to make it a 2-0.
Just 12 seconds later, Cole Caufield jumped out on the rush and sent a shot from the faceoff circle past Johansson to put Montreal up three.
Brendan Gallagher joined the party with a power play goal at 12:23 and this one may as well have been called.
Things got scary for Ben Chariot with 3:34 left in the first when Tyler Pitlick hit him up high on a play away from the puck. He looked dazed for a second, but got up and skated off on his own power.
The Panthers got a power play out of it and it was Chiarot who cashed in.
Eetu Luostarinen found him with a behind-the-back pass and he put in a shot from the slot with 1:37 left in the first period to put Florida on the board.
With Chiarot’s goal, the Panthers officially went the entire season without getting shut out for the first time in franchise history.
That was the lone bright spot of the game, as Montreal got right back to it in the second period.
Caufield made it 5-1 just 1:33 into the second period with his second goal of the night, zipping into the offensive zone, splitting the defense, and roofing a backhander over Johansson’s blocker.
Mathieu Perreault and Jake Evans each added goals within the next five minutes to put the Montreal Canadiens up 7-1.
At that point, Johansson allowed seven goals on 17 shots.
He stopped nine of the next 10 to end the second period, with Christian Dvorak scoring with 6:39 to go in the frame to make it 8-1.
Caufield completed his hat trick with 11:48 to go, kicking a puck to himself and defecting it in to make it a 9-1 game.
While Panthers fans cheered ‘We Want 10’ throughout the season, they finally got a game where one team scored 10 goals — just not the way they wanted it to happen…
Pitlick sent a quick shot off of a face-off draw past Johansson with 10:09 to go to hit the double-digit mark.
Noel Acciari got the Panthers back on the board with 5:05 to go, poking a loose puck home and cutting their deficit to 10-2.
The Panthers finish the 2021-22 season with a 58-18-6 record, tying for fifth all-time in wins in a season.
Florida’s total of 336 goals is tied for 36th in NHL history and is the most since 1995-96 when the Pittsburgh Penguins scored 362 goals before getting knocked out in the Eastern Conference Final by the Panthers.
Now, the Panthers head into the Stanley Cup Playoffs where Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals await.
COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Cole Caufield, Montreal
2. Jordan Harris, Montreal
3. Brendan Gallagher, Montreal
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
VS. WASHINGTON CAPITALS (Best of 7)
- Game 1: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TBA
- Radio: WQAM 560, SiriusXM
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- Season series — Florida won 2-1: @Florida 5, Washington 4 OT (Nov. 4); @Washington 4, Panthers 3 (Nov. 26); @Florida 5, Washington 4 (Nov. 30)
- All-time regular season series: Capitals lead 67-44-11, 9 ties
- Playoff history: None
- First-round schedule — Game 1: Washington at Florida, Tuesday, 7:30 (ESPN2/BSF); Game 2: Washington at Florida, Thursday, 7:30 (TBS/BSF); Game 3: Florida at Washington, Saturday, 1 (ESPN/BSF); Game 4: Florida at Washington, May 9, 7 (TBS/BSF); Game 5*: Washington at Florida, May 11; Game 6*: Florida at Washington, May 13; Game 7: Washington at Florida, May 15. *If necessary