After Montreal dropped the first two meetings in recent weeks,
Canadiens right winger Brian Gionta scored the tiebreaking goal in
the second period Monday night to give his team a 2-1 win over its
Atlantic Division foe at the Bell Centre.
"That team plays hard," Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov said of
the Panthers. "They're working hard every shift, and it's tough to
play against them. Tonight, we had better work from everybody. We
tried to play our game and tried to play hard."
At 15:46 of the middle period, center Tomas Plekanec intercepted
defenseman Ed Jovanovski's pass behind the Florida net and fed a
streaking Gionta in the left circle. The Canadiens captain fired a
wrist shot past Florida goalie Tim Thomas for his seventh goal of
the season, giving Montreal a 2-1 lead.
It marked the first time since Oct. 22 and Oct. 24 that Gionta
scored in back-to-back games.
Center David Desharnais also scored for Montreal (25-14-5).
After giving up the first three shots on goal in the opening four
minutes, the Canadiens took control thereafter, outshooting Florida
13-5 in the first period and 25-11 through 40 minutes.
"That's not a good enough of a start," said Panthers left winger
Sean Bergenheim, who scored his team's only goal. "The third period
was better from us. We showed that we have that push, and we know
that we have that push. But we don't want to put ourselves in that
Desharnais opened the scoring at 6:23 of the first period. After
left winger Max Pacioretty fed him at the Florida blue line, the
diminutive center, one-on-one with Panthers defenseman Tom Gilbert,
fanned on his initial shot before going for a spin-o-rama to get the
puck back and backhand it past Thomas.
The Canadiens thought they doubled their lead a few minutes later,
but the goal was waved off because the referee blew his whistle.
After going more than 10 minutes without a shot, the Panthers
finally got another and made it count at 17:09. Price made the save
on rookie center Aleksander Barkov's initial shot from the left
circle, but Bergenheim was in the slot to clean up the rebound for
his 10th goal of the season.
Barkov's assist extended his points streak to six games, tying a
Panthers rookie record.
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The line of Bergenheim, Barkov and right winger Brad Boyes
have accounted for eight of Florida's last eight goals in
"Other lines have to contribute and score goals," Panthers left
winger Tomas Fleischmann said. "I think for half of the game
they were better, and then in the second half we picked it up.
... We had our chances to tie it but couldn't. It's too bad
because we usually play pretty good here. We got points against
Montreal the last two games, and these are points we're going to
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price made 26 saves.
Thomas, facing Montreal for the first time since Feb. 15, 2012 — when he was with the Boston Bruins — stopped 33 shots.
Canadiens right winger Travis Moen nearly put his team ahead
again early in the second on a short-handed, two-on-one rush
with Plekanec. The puck went in the net, but the goal was
disallowed after a review. It was deemed Thomas made the initial
save and that a sliding Moen pushed him and the puck in.
Florida (16-21-6) pressed for the equalizer in the third period,
outshooting Montreal 16-10 in the final stanza. However, the
Canadiens hung on, holding an opponent to fewer than two goals
for the first time since Dec. 28 against the Lightning in Tampa.
"That's what we're trying to get back to — limiting those
chances, limiting the time we spend in our 'D' zone," Gionta
said. "You can see the difference between the first two periods
and the third period. When we spent a lot of time in the third
period in our own end, they had a lot of good opportunities."
NOTES: Panthers D Erik Gudbranson returned to the lineup wearing
a full cage. He missed five games after undergoing orbital bone
surgery Dec. 23. ... The Canadiens scratched D Raphael Diaz and
RW George Parros. ... Florida scratched RW Jimmy Hayes, C Scott
Gomez and D Mike Mottau. Gomez, bought out by the Canadiens at
the start of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, dressed for
just two of the Panthers' last 16 games, both times seeing less
than 10 minutes of ice time. ... Earlier in the day, Montreal C
Tomas Plekanec was named captain of the Czech Republic's Olympic
hockey team that will play in Sochi, Russia, next month. Diaz
will represent Switzerland.
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