The Panthers are in a tough battle for one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots this season, and on Tuesday, they lost 3-2 at home to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs in a game that saw both Florida goalies lost to injury, the surprise return to uniform of 41-year-old goalie coach Robb Tallas, and a different kind of surprise return late in the contest.
Florida's goalie woes began when starter Roberto Luongo was hit in the shoulder by a Leo Komarov shot late in the first period and didn't start the second period. Montoya was between the Panthers' pipes in Luongo's stead, but was injured early in the third period on what turned out to be Peter Holland's game-winning goal. Yet with Luongo in street clothes and no other options available, Montoya remained in action with severely limited mobility. At the same time, Panthers brass scrambled to get Tallas under an official players contract and in uniform. They were successful:
Tallas, whose last NHL game came with the Blackhawks on February 19, 2001 against the New York Rangers, didn't appear flustered as he made his way to the bench in his goalie gear. And oddly enough, this same type of unexpected comeback nearly happened to him with the Panthers two years ago to the day, when he briefly backed up Scott Clemmensen while the team waited for Jacob Markstrom's goalie equipment to arrive:
For a few minutes, it was looking as if Tallas might be pressed into duty against the Leafs – but in another twist, Luongo put his equipment back on and replaced the ailing Montoya for the final 8:04 of the third period. The loss prevented the Panthers from gaining ground on the Bruins, who they trail by just two points for the second and final wild card slot. And to see it happen in such a bizarre manner could sting even more if they wind up missing the post-season by a point or two.