The Montreal Canadiens waited too long to find their fire on Tuesday night, allowing the Florida Panthers to escape the Bell Centre with a 3-2 victory.
The Habs were nowhere to be found during the first two periods. In the first they were only able to register three shots on goal.
Jozef Stumpel, Brett McLean, and Olli Jokinen all scored to put the Panthers in front 3-0.
The Canadiens finally started to gel with 10 minutes to play in the game. Andrei Markov scored two goals to reduce the Panthers lead to one—but it was too little, too late.
As Jean de la Fontaine wrote in his classic story, the hare rallied back—but lost by a hair to the steady tortoise at the finish line.
"Inexcusable" was how Habs coach Guy Carbonneau described the general team effort. And he's right—there's no way to explain the lack of intensity.
If the players thought they were in for an easy game, they got further proof that you can't win an NHL game against anyone without bringing your best effort.
The Canadiens are now looking at a six-game road trip to end the year. The swing will either force the team to regroup or break them into bits.