Canadiens Squeeze Past Panthers in 2019 Kraft Hockeyville Game

BATHURST, N.B. — A short-handed goal by Alex Belzile with less than five minutes to play lifted the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-3 pre-season win over the Florida Panthers Wednesday night in the 2019 Kraft Hockeyville game in Bathurst, N.B.

Matthew Peca, Jeff Petry and Riley Barber also scored for the Canadiens, who improved to 2-0 in exhibition play.

Evgenii Dadonov, Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau replied for Florida as the Panthers lost their third straight.

Montreal was first on the scoreboard in a fast-paced first period.

Belzile fed Peca with a quick pass in front of the Florida net to beat goaltender Chris Driedger at 5:47 of the opening frame.

Montreal Canadiens Alex Belzile
Montreal Canadiens Alex Belzile (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

Florida had just come off the power play when Dadonov scored the equalizer at 15:55, beating Montreal netminder Charlie Lindgren on assists from Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad.

Petry fired through traffic from the point to beat Driedger low on the trapper side to restore Montreal’s lead at 4:38 of the second period.

But the Panthers responded six minutes later on the power play when Hoffman fired a quick shot off a cross-ice pass from Aleksander Barkov and found the back of the Montreal net.

Huberdeau scored at the 6:48 mark of the third to give Florida the lead for the first time in the game. The Panthers forward is in his eighth season with Florida after a record-breaking 2018-19 campaign. He set the franchise-record for single-season assists with 62.

Florida’s lead was short-lived, when Barber tied the game at 11:23 to set the stage for Belzile’s winner.

This is the 13th year of Hockeyville. The small community of Renous, N.B., won $250,000 for repairs and upgrades to their rink, and the chance to host the NHL game. Because of the high demand for tickets, it was decided to hold the game in the larger venue in Bathurst.

HKN Hockeyville Panthers Canadiens
Hockey fans gather outside the Tom Donovan Arena in Renous, N.B., Tuesday, Sept.17, 2019. tiny New Brunswick community, known mainly for its federal maximum-security prison, has been transformed into Hockeyville in celebration of the game and the legacy left by a young player. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett)

Roberto Luongo said he was happy to represent Florida at Hockeyville in New Brunswick, giving him a chance to visit Bathurst where he helped the Acadie-Bathurst Titan win the Quebec Major Junior League championship in 1998-99.

“It’s fun to be back. It’s been a while but just to see the people outside and their enthusiasm brings back some great memories,” Luongo said.

The 40-year-old announced his retirement in June following a career 489 NHL wins as a goalie.

“I’m happy with my decision and think it was the right one for me,” he said.

Luongo said instead of working out all summer, he got to spend more time with family and enjoy a few extra slices of pizza.  

The Canadiens and Panthers square off again Thursday night for their next pre-season game at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2019.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

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