First-place Habs take on lowly Panthers

10:21 AM, Mar 10, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - After getting swept by Florida in the 2011-12 season series, the Montreal Canadiens will try to return the favor when they visit the Panthers for Sunday's test at BankAtlantic Center.

Florida went 4-0 against the Canadiens last season, but the Habs have taken the first two of three scheduled encounters in 2013.

Montreal earned a 4-1 home win over the Panthers on Jan. 22 and then posted a 1-0 overtime victory Feb. 14 at Sunrise. Rene Bourque scored the game winner and the only goal of that February meeting at the 2:10 mark of overtime and Carey Price turned aside 26 shots for the shutout.

The Canadiens have won three of their last five contests at Florida.

Montreal enters Sunday on a two-game win streak and has picked up victories in three of its last four trips to the ice. The Canadiens played Saturday evening in Tampa and earned a 4-3 comeback win against the Lightning.

Brendan Gallagher scored the game winner with just under eight minutes left in the third, as the Habs used a three-goal final frame to earn two points at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Montreal is still one point ahead of Boston for first place in the Northeast Division.

Brian Gionta added a goal and an assist Saturday, while Tomas Plekanec and Alexei Emelin each scored once for the Canadiens, who improved to 3-1 on a five-game road trip and 8-2-2 as the guest this season.

"It's nice that we rallied late in the game, but we can't allow ourselves to get in those holes in the first place," said Gionta.

Price posted 20 saves in the victory and he could get a fourth straight start on Sunday. Price is 5-4-1 with a 1.88 goals against average in 10 career games against the Panthers.

After closing out their road trip in Sunrise, the Canadiens are off until Wednesday's home test against Ottawa.

Meanwhile, the Panthers, who sit last in the Eastern Conference with 20 points, have lost two straight and five of their last six games. Florida was able to record a point in its most recent trip to the ice, losing a 3-2 overtime decision Friday against visiting Winnipeg. Dustin Byfuglien scored the game winner for the Jets with 40.5 seconds left in OT.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Shawn Matthias each scored once, while Jacob Markstrom allowed all three goals on 28 shots for the Panthers, who fell to 1-6 this season in OT/shootout games.

"Overtime has been a real Achilles' heel for us," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen admitted. "You lose five games at home in overtime, that's disappointing for our players and for our fan base."

Florida is playing the middle test of a three-game homestand on Sunday before closing it Tuesday against Tampa Bay. The Panthers are 4-5-5 at home after dropping three of their last four in Sunrise.

The Sports Network

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