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Canadiens defeat Panthers for fifth straight win

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Montreal Canadiens left winger Max Pacioretty admitted that his two goals Saturday night were about as easy as it gets.

"I got set up perfectly for both goals," said Pacioretty, who just had to tap the puck in to get his 34th and 35th goals of the season.

Pacioretty's goals helped the surging Canadiens cruise to their fifth straight win, defeating the Florida Panthers 4-1 on Saturday night at the BB&T Center.

But, as Pacioretty mentioned, it was a team effort. In fact, all four of the Canadiens' goals came from the Pacioretty line that included center David Desharnais and Tomas Vanek, who is also listed as a left winger.

Montreal, which has the longest active win streak in the Eastern Conference, now has 93 points. The only teams in the East with more points are the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Canadiens got solid goaltending from Carey Price, who made 36 saves.

"They had a lot of outside shots," Price said. "We're just trying to make a push toward the playoffs."

Florida, which has just 62 points and has already been eliminated from the playoffs, lost for the ninth time in its past 12 games.

Panthers backup goaltender Dan Ellis, playing in place of injured starter Roberto Luongo (sore neck), took the loss.

Luongo, a Montreal native, was injured Thursday in a collision with Carolina Hurricanes left winger Radek Dvorak. The Panthers, however, do not believe Luongo's injury is serious.

Montreal opened the scoring with 9:13 left in the first period as Vanek followed his own shot to get his 27th goal of the season.

The Canadiens made it 2-0 with 2:57 left in the period on a play that featured exquisite passing. Center Daniel Briere threaded a cross-ice feed to defenseman Alexei Emelin, who got the puck to Pacioretty for the easy tap-in.

Florida had 10 shots in the period, failing to take advantage of two power plays within the first six minutes.

Montreal made it 3-0 with six minutes left in the second period on Pacioretty's second goal of the game and his 35th of the season. If anything, Pacioretty's second goal was even easier than his first. Passes by Desharnais and Vanek set up Pacioretty on the doorstep, just to the left of Ellis.

Pacioretty said he has to guard against watching the puck too much instead of moving.

"Normally, you try to picture in your mind the way it's going to play out," he said. "I was just going hard to the net. (Vanek) put it right on (Desharnais') stick, and I found myself wide open."

With 3:51 left in the second period, Florida made it 3-1 on a goal by right winger Brad Boyes. Sprung by a pass from left winger Sean Bergenheim, Boyes skated in on the right side and beat an unobstructed Price with a high shot.

"I should have had that one," Price said.

Despite his goal, Boyes was disappointed with his team's effort.

"No finish," he said. "We generated a lot of shots, a lot of chances. They sat back a bit and let us come at them. We were able to get in the zone and try to generate stuff, but, again, a lack of scoring."

Desharnais closed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 23 seconds left.

But the game had been virtually over long before that, and Ellis and Panthers coach Peter Horachek credited the Canadiens.

"That's a really good hockey team over there," Ellis said.

Added Horachek: "Price was the biggest difference. We made some mistakes, and they capitalized on them."

NOTES: Panthers G Scott Clemmensen was called up from the AHL to serve as G Dan Ellis' backup. ... Montreal C Tomas Plekanec, who scored twice Thursday in a win over Detroit, did not make the trip to Florida due to a "family matter." ... Saturday marked the return of D Mike Weaver, who played four years for the Panthers before being acquired by the Canadiens at the trading deadline. ... RW George Parros, who played for Florida last season, was also in Montreal's lineup. ... Florida C Jonathan Huberdeau (upper-body injury) hopes to resume skating next week and could play in the team's final five games. ... Montreal was without LW Travis Moen (concussion), LW Brandon Prust (upper body), D Josh Gorges (left hand), RW Dale Weise (upper body) and D Jarred Tinordi (healthy scratch). ... Florida was without D Tom Gilbert (groin), C Aleksander Barkov (knee), LW Tomas Kopecky (upper body) and D Alex Petrovic (upper body). ... Up next, the Panthers start a two-game road trip Monday at New Jersey. ... Montreal's four-game trip wraps up Tuesday at Tampa and Friday at Ottawa.
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