What it was like for the Canadiens and Panthers to play through the wildest period of the NHL season

SUNRISE, Fla. — Matthew Tkachuk tried to recall at which point in a first 10-goal period between the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens he started to feel like things were starting to get weird.

The fact that he couldn’t remember showed how weird it was. Because there were simply too many targets to choose from.

“I forgot what goal it was with nine minutes left (in the first), maybe it was 6-3? Or 5-3? We were like, it’s a lot of goals so far,” Tkachuk said. “Yeah, when it was 3-3 it was pretty crazy. The 4-3 goal, actually, that was it. The 4-3 goal, when (Aaron Ekblad) scored, hit the foot of the D.

“That’s like putting pucks on the net, you never know what’s going to happen tonight.”

The combination of the Panthers and Canadiens for 10 goals in the first period was only the third time in NHL history that had ever happened, and the first since 1987. It was something Panthers coach Paul Maurice compared to an episode from ‘The Twilight Zone’.

“I have never seen anything like it in 25 years. Ever. So many goals,’ said Maurice. “There were more goals than opportunities to score, which is a rarity. All I can say is that it totally affected the rest of the game I think for both teams. And I’m not sure if the video is necessarily useful for the hockey game.’

Maurice wasn’t wrong about the odds-to-goal ratio – Natural Stat Trick tied the Panthers for 1.34 expected goals in the first period and the Canadiens for 0.31, and the score was 7-3 Florida after a period. But the TV comparison showed Maurice’s age, as his defender Ekblad probably had a more relevant program to compare the experience to.

“Strange. Crazy. ‘Strange things,'” Ekblad said. “Yeah, that was a weird game.”

The Canadiens even jumped out to a lead 16 seconds into the first, as former Panther Mike Matheson defeated Sergei Bobrovsky.

“We had a great first squad and then things kind of went sideways,” said Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki. “I think our three goals didn’t really show how we played. We played very badly. We were on their side and we gave away far too many chances throughout the game. Against a team like that, with the offensive players they have, they’re going to score, and I felt like we played like glossy hockey in the summer and they played to get a playoff spot.

“So it was pretty unacceptable of us.”

The Canadiens scored on their first three shots off Bobrovsky, and although they got a shot on target when Kaiden Guhle hit the side of the net just after the 12th minute mark of the first, they didn’t really test Bobrovsky again. Alex Belzile took a shot from the slot at 14:32 of the first.

The Panthers then had a 7-3 lead.

“It’s not fun,” Bobrovsky said. “After three shots you can’t, well, actually you can’t think of a good game. … I thought (the Canadiens goalkeepers) were pretty much in the same shoes. You look at the goals, and there’s not much you can do about that, there are distractions, there are diversions. It was like a pickle ball.

Of course it wasn’t fun in the other net either.

“It was 3-3 in how many minutes were played? It was just really weird,” said Canadiens defenseman David Savard. “They kept throwing the puck into our net and it wasn’t fun to be there.”

Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis probably put it best.

“I wouldn’t say it was a bad try,” he said. “I just want to say we weren’t very intelligent defensively tonight.”

There was a lot of history in that first period. It was the sixth time two teams had combined to score seven goals in the first 10 minutes of a game – the Panthers and Canadiens needed just 9:09 to reach the mark. It was the fifth time nine different players had scored a goal in the first period. But this apparently never hit the players as it happened.

“Uh, no,” said Tkachuk.

But if there was one historic moment that counted the most, it was Maurice, one of the best quotes in the NHL throughout his career, essentially speechless by what he saw.

“There are very few times I come here and I don’t know what I’m going to say,” said Maurice. “I have never seen anything like it in my life. There was no man behind our couch and I guarantee there wasn’t a man behind their couch who would have seen anything like it.

“So let’s leave it at this: we really had to win that game, we put down nine, we won the game and we came out healthy.”

There was only one flaw for the Panthers. After scoring seven goals in just over 13 minutes, the fans in the FLA Live Arena started chanting: “We want 10! We want 10!”

The Panthers never got there. So even though they lost 9-5, maybe it wasn’t all negative for the Canadiens after all.

(Photo: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

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