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Bourque's OT goal lifts Canadiens past Panthers

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- This was a very successful mini-trip for the Montreal Canadiens.

Rene Bourque scored at 2:10 of overtime and Carey Price outdueled Jose Theodore to give the Canadiens a 1-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at BankAtlantic Center.

It was Price's 17th career shutout and his second against Florida. Price, who entered the game with a 2.10 goals-against average vs. Florida, made 26 saves.

"Carey Price is a true leader," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "He gives us a chance to win every time he is out there."

The Canadiens remained perfect against Southeast Division teams this year, boosting their record to 5-0. Overall, Montreal (8-4-1) has 17 points, good for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

They also won their second straight game, both of them in Florida.

"It's not every year that you come to Florida and pick up four points, and this is exactly what we did," Therrien said. "I thought our guys were really focused. We played a really solid game. We took away their time and space.

"And when we ended up losing momentum in the third period for a few shifts, Carey was phenomenal."

On the winning play, rookie center Alex Galchenyuk got past the Florida defense, and got the puck toward the goal, where it bounced off Theodore. Bourque then poked it in for the score.

"That's part of the learning process for a young kid," Therrien said of Galchenyuk, who got the assist. "We're going to overtime, and I wanted to give him a shift. What a second effort he did. He stuck with the puck and made the right play. And Rene Bourque stuck in front and made the most of his chance."

Therrien said Bourque is playing well.

"He has good chemistry with (Tomas) Plekanec and (Brian) Gionta," the coach said. "This is a solid line. They have played really well both sides of the ice.

"Rene, I was not here last year, but I saw him play. He is more motivated, he's in great shape, and he is moving his feet a lot better than he did last year."

For the Panthers, it was a strong defensive effort but a disappointing result at home. They have lost three in a row, but they've earned nine out of a possible 14 points in their past seven games.

Theodore, who was drafted by the Canadiens and spent a decade with the organization, stopped 31 shots but fell to 2-3-1 against his former team. Thursday night's performance was still a major improvement over his career numbers against Montreal (4.60 goals-against average).

It was also an improvement over what the Panthers have done between the pipes this season -- a league-worst 3.83 GAA entering the game.

The struggles of Theodore and backup Scott Clemmensen -- a.872 save percentage, second worst in the league -- had some calling for Jacob Makstrom. He's the Panthers' 23-year-old goalie prospect who is currently playing in the AHL (.923 save percentage).

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen praised Theodore on Thursday but said his team got off to a bad start.

"It was a tough game for us," he said. "We got outworked for a stretch and finally decided to start playing a simple game, and things fell in from there. But obviously, it was not enough to bring it home."

Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann said his team's offense never got untracked.

"Every shot was from the boards or around the blue line," he said. "There weren't a lot of big opportunities. And when there were, there a play by their goalie."

Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell said one point was not enough.

He echoed Dineen's thoughts on the slow start as the Panthers were outshot 21-13 in the first two periods before winning the third, 13-9.

"We were better in the third," he said. "The chances were there. We just have to find a way to put them in."

NOTES: Forward Kris Versteeg, who led the Panthers last season with a career-high 23 goals, was scratched because of an upper-body injury. He was hurt when he was checked into the boards Tuesday by Washington's Alex Ovechkin. Earlier this year, he missed five games because of a groin injury. He has one goal in seven games. ... The Canadiens swapped minor-league goalies with Tampa Bay on Thursday. Montreal got Dustin Tokarski, 23, in exchange for Cedrick Desjardins, 27. Tokarski, the 122nd player selected in the 2008 draft, won a gold medal for Canada in the 2009 World Juniors Championship. Desjardins, who was undrafted, is 2-2 with a 1.00 GAA in four NHL games. This is the second time he has been traded by Montreal. Months after that first trade, he helped Tampa Bay beat Montreal 4-1 on Dec. 30, 2010. ... Up next, the Canadiens return home for a Saturday night date with the Flyers. ... The Panthers close out their four-game homestand Saturday afternoon against Tampa Bay and Monday night vs. Toronto.

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