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Panthers roll past Canadiens

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers got another strong start from backup goalie Scott Clemmensen in snapping a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday at BB&T Center.

Florida, now 2-0 against Montreal this month, played in front of its first capacity home crowd of the season. Although most were rooting for the visiting team, the Panthers sent their patrons home happy. The announced attendance of 19,891 surpassed Florida's previous home high of 18,932 set the night before against Detroit.

"It means a lot to the people in the building,'' Florida coach Peter Horachek said of the victory. "I think it's great to see all the fans in here cheering. Hockey fans are hockey fans.''

Clemmensen, making his third straight start, stopped 21 of 22 shots as both teams were playing the second game of a back-to-back set. Montreal won in Tampa Bay on Saturday night while Florida lost at home to the Red Wings.

On Sunday, the Panthers grabbed the initial lead when defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and left winger Tomas Fleischmann hooked up on a 2-on-1 break with Kulikov taking the feed and beating Peter Budaj at 6:10 of the first.

Montreal tied it in the second on right winger Brandon Prust's fourth goal of the year, yet the Panthers added two more in the frame to take a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.

"I think they had a really strong second period and came out really hard and capitalized on a couple of chances,'' Budaj said. "We could've kept gaining points. We've got to learn from that and come back and keep going."

Florida's second goal came when defenseman Brian Campbell fired a shot that clipped Budaj's skate and found its way in at 4:51 of the period. Rookie center Aleksander Barkov redirected defenseman Tom Gilbert's shot at 14:29 of the second for his seventh goal of the year.

"It was definitely a great effort,'' Gilbert said. "There weren't a lot of lapses and that happens during some games. We contained whatever pressure they had. We had some bounces and that helps. It was exactly what we needed.''

Left winger Sean Bergenheim gave Florida its final goal when he deposited a puck into an empty net with 17 seconds remaining.

Montreal had a pair of goals pulled for goalie interference. The second came in the third period when Alex Galchenyuk got wrapped up with Clemmensen inside the crease.

"It's really frustrating,'' Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "The first goal that they refused, Brian Gionta said it never touched the stick. The second goal, it was clearly a crosscheck by them against Galchenyuk.

"So it's one of those nights. It's frustrating. It's a frustrating night, but honestly we didn't have the same jump and intensity as (Saturday) night.''

Goalie Tim Thomas, who was taken off the injured list Christmas Eve, remained on the bench Sunday. Thomas has been slowed by a groin injury and was thought to start at least one of Florida's post-holiday weekend games. The Panthers returned Jacob Markstrom to their minor league team in San Antonio last week.

NOTES: Florida LW Tomas Kopecky played in his 500th career game. ... Montreal went 0-3 on the power play Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Canadiens came into Sunday just 3-for-32 in its past 11 games. ... Montreal D Josh Gorges returned to the lineup Saturday after missing a game with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Gorges also played Sunday. ... The Canadiens scratched D Douglas Murray, RW George Parros (who suffered a concussion two weeks ago) and LW Michael Bournival. Parros spent last year's lockout-shortened season with Florida. The Panthers' scratches were C Scott Gomez (who spent 2009-12 with the Canadiens) and D Mike Mottau. ... Florida recently placed LW Jesse Winchester (hand), RW Scottie Upshall (upper body) and D Erik Gudbranson (orbital bone surgery) on the injured list. ... Montreal's road trip continues with a New Year's Eve date against the Panthers in Carolina. The Panthers host the New York Rangers that evening.

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