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Canadiens 5, Panthers 2

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Canadiens closed out their season-long five-game roadtrip with a 5-2 victory over the Panthers to remain atop the Eastern Conference standings Sunday night in front of 19,189 at the BB&T Center.

Montreal (17-5-4) struck quickly on center David Desharnais' eighth goal of the season just 1:46 into the game.

Defenseman Alexei Emelin handled the puck behind the Montreal net and found Desharnais, who skated into the Florida zone. His slap shot beat Jacob Markstrom's glove side. Right winger Brendan Gallagher also earned an assist.

Florida (7-13-6), meanwhile, fell to 1-11-4 when its opponent scores first. The Panthers were outshot 13-7 in the period.

Less than seven minutes later the Canadiens extended their lead to 2-0 with 13 seconds remaining on a power play thanks to a center Marcel Goc interference penalty.

Right winger Michael Ryder scored the 100th goal of his Montreal career -- his seventh of the season -- by redirecting defenseman P.K. Subban's shot from in front of the blue line. Center Tomas Plekanec also recorded an assist.

Since being acquired in a trade with Dallas last month, Ryder has one goal and seven assists in seven games during his second stint with the Canadiens.

With 4:25 left in the second period, right winger Brian Gionta redirected a slap shot by Suppan that Markstrom made the initial save on. The rebound, however, bounced right back to Gionta, whose follow-up trickled past the goalie for a 3-0 lead.

Gionta now has six points, including five goals, in his last six games. He has nine goals on the season.

Two minutes later, defenseman Francis Bouillon scored his first of the season on a quick transition. Gionta intercepted center Jonathan Huberdeau's pass from behind the Montreal net and broke through for a two-on-two.

Following his pass to Ryder on the right side of the Florida zone, Ryder found Bouillon skating down the middle for an easy set-up.

Twice in the second period the Panthers couldn't capitalize on opportunities.

At 9:11 on their own two-on-two, center Peter Mueller's shot rebounded to center Drew Shore, who couldn't get another shot off. With five minutes remaining, Huberdeau fed Mueller in front of the net, but Peter Budaj made the save.

Right winger Tomas Kopecky put Florida on the scoreboard 7:59 into the third period.

After the Canadiens failed to clear the puck from their zone, Kopecky gathered it, turned around and shot from in front of the blue line. The rebound went off Bouillon's stick and ended up top shelf.

Kopecky has 10 points in his last 13 games (7-3-10).

The Panthers trimmed the deficit in half on center Shawn Matthias' snap shot that beat Budaj's glove side with 6:03 remaining in the game. Skille assisted Matthias' seventh of the season on a rush.

Matthias has a four-game point scoring streak, including four goals in the last six games.

Ryder capped the scoring with a power-play goal less than two minutes later, once again deflecting Subban's slap shot. Defenseman Andrei Markov collected the other assist.

Entering Sunday's game, Florida held an NHL-worst 73.8 percent penalty kill.

Montreal closed out its five-game road swing 4-1-0 and improved to 9-2-2 away from the Bell Centre this season. Florida has dropped six of seven overall.

For the first time since the franchise's inception in 1993, the Panthers did not beat the Canadiens in a season. Montreal won all three of this year's meetings.

NOTES: Panthers right winger Jon Rheault, who made his NHL debut on Tuesday night against the Jets, was reassigned to AHL's San Antonio Rampage. Jerred Smithson was recalled in his place. ... Canadiens left winger Brandon Prust suffered a minor shoulder separation in Saturday's night win over the Lightning and will miss 10 days. That snaps his streak of 223 consecutive games played. ... Captain Brian Gionta took part in his 200th career game with Montreal. ... Up next, the Canadiens return home following a season-long five-game road trip to face the Senators Wednesday night. ... The Panthers conclude their three-game homestand by hosting the Lightning on Tuesday night.
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