SUNRISE, Fla. – Matthew Tkachuk tried to remember at what point during the 10-goal first period between the Florida Panthers and the Montreal Canadiens he started to feel like things were getting weird.
The fact that he didn’t remember showed how strange it was. Because there were simply too many goals to choose from.
“I forget what the goal was after nine minutes (in the first), maybe 6-3? Or 5-3? We were like a lot of goals have been scored so far, Tkachuk said. “Yeah, when it was 3-3, it was pretty crazy. 4-3 goal, actually, that’s what it was. 4-3 goal, when (Aaron Ekblad) scored, it hit D’s leg.
“It’s like putting the pucks in the net, you never know what’s going to happen tonight.”
The Panthers and Canadiens combined for 10 goals in the first period was just the third time in NHL history that has ever happened and the first time since 1987. Panthers coach Paul Maurice compared it to an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that in 25 years. Never. So many goals,” Maurice said. “There were more goals than chances, and that’s rare. All I can say is that it totally affected the end game, I believe for both teams. And I’m not sure does the video necessarily have anything useful in the hockey game.
Maurice wasn’t wrong about the chances and goals — Natural Stat Trick gave the Panthers 1.34 expected goals in the first period and the Canadiens 0.31, and it was 7-3 Florida after one period. But the TV comparison showed Maurice’s age, as his defender Ekblad arguably had a more relevant program to compare the experience to.
“Weird. Crazy. ‘Stranger Things,'” Ekblad said. “Yeah, it was a weird game.”
The Canadiens actually jumped out to the lead 16 seconds into the first when former Panther Mike Matheson beat Sergei Bobrovsky.
“We had a great first inning and then things went a little sideways from there,” Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki said. “I think our three goals didn’t really show how we played. We played really badly. Looked out of their side and we gave away too many chances throughout the game. Against a team like this, they have attacking players, they score and I felt we played like shiny hockey in the summer and they were playing for a playoff spot.
“So that was pretty unacceptable for us.”
The Canadiens scored on their first three shots on Bobrovsky, and while they were awarded a shot on goal when Kaiden Guhle hit the side of the net just 12 minutes into the first, they didn’t test Bobrovsky again until Alex Belzile took a shot from the spot at 14:32 of the first period.
The Panthers led 7-3 at the time.
“It’s not fun,” Bobrovsky said. “After three shots you can’t get, well you basically can’t come up with a good game. … I thought (the Canadiens goaltenders) were pretty much in the same shoes. You look at the goals and you can’t do much there, there are deviations, there are redirections. It was like a pickle.”
Obviously, it wasn’t funny on the other network.
“It was 3-3 in how many minutes? It was really weird,” Canadiens defenseman David Savard said. “They put the puck in our net and it wasn’t fun to be there.”
Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis probably said it best.
“I wouldn’t say it was a bad effort,” he said. “I would just say we weren’t very smart defensively tonight.”
The first era had a lot of history. It was the sixth time two teams combined for seven goals in the first 10 minutes of a game — the Panthers and Canadiens needed just 9:09 to score. This was the fifth time nine different players scored in the first period. But this apparently never affected the players when it happened.
“No,” Tkachuk said.
But if there was a historic moment that mattered most, it was Maurice, one of the NHL’s best quotes throughout his career, who was left speechless by what he saw.
“I come here very rarely and I don’t know what I’m going to say,” Maurice said. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. There wasn’t a guy behind our bench and I guarantee you there wasn’t a guy behind their bench that saw anything like that.
“So we’ll leave it at that: We really had to win that game, we won nine, we won the game and we got out of it healthy.”
There was only one negative for the Panthers. After scoring seven goals in just over 13 minutes, the fans at FLA Live Arena began chanting “We want 10! We want 10!”
The Panthers never got there. So even though they lost 9-5, it might not have been a negative for the Canadiens.
(Photo: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)