SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)—The Florida Panthers had problems holding leads during their six-game winless streak. A rally on Friday night ended the skid.
Olli Jokinen also scored for the Panthers, 0-2-3-1 during their skid. The Panthers blew leads in four of those games, including three advantages of two goals or more.
“I think we’ve really improved as a team,” Cullen said. “Tonight was a real good job of sticking to our plan and not changing things after two periods. We finally got the bounces.”
The Canadiens had been 8-0 this season when leading after the first period.
“It’s tough to explain,” Koivu said. “The effort, for some reason, wasn’t there. After getting a 2-0 lead, maybe we thought it was going to be an easy night.”
The Canadiens lost for only the second time in eight games. Montreal, which beat the Rangers on Wednesday, has not won consecutive games since their sixth and seventh games of the season.
“If we want to move up in the standings, we’re going to have to start winning consecutive games,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said.
Cullen got the winner at 6:15 of the third, during a delayed Montreal penalty, when his wrist shot deflected in off Canadiens defenseman Francis Bouillon.
Kolnik provided some insurance at 9:24 when he rebounded Cullen’s back-hander on net from a sharp angle.
“It’s about time,” said Kolnik, who scored his first goal in six games. “The last couple of games I’ve been trying to put the puck on the net. I only got one shot tonight but it went in.”
Kozlov tied it 2-2 at 2:42 of the third period, three seconds into a Florida power play. After Montreal defenseman Stephane Quintal lost control of the puck to the side of the net, Kozlov beat Theodore with a wrist shot.
“We deserved this game and I think everybody in the dressing room felt we deserved this game,” Florida coach Rick Dudley said. “But I just said between periods, `We will win this game if we do exactly what we’ve been doing’ and that’s what they did.”
Jokinen started the Florida rally at 5:00 of the second when he grabbed a rebound and shot the puck into an open net.
“We got a couple mistakes and they scored,” Jokinen said. “We kept it up after the first period and never looked back. We saw some of the best hockey this team has played in a while in this building.”
Zednik opened the scoring 6:07 in when he took Mike Ribeiro’s pass from behind the net and slipped a shot through Luongo’s pads.
“It’s unacceptable,” Theodore said. “We grab a 2-0 lead and I don’t know if the players thought it was going to be 7 or 8-0 and guys were going to have a couple of points. That’s not our style. We didn’t play with discipline.”
Each team came close to scoring in the fourth minute of the game. Florida right wing Marcus Nilson’s slap shot deflected off Bouillon’s stick and went off the crossbar. Twenty seconds later, Montreal’s Chad Kilger took a shot from the front of the net that hit the post to the right of Luongo.
“It’s not only disappointing, it’s unacceptable,” Julien said.
Montreal D Patrice Brisebois sat out because of a groin injury sustained against the Rangers. … Montreal’s four-game unbeaten streak on the road (3-0-1) was snapped. … Florida LW Kristian Huselius, a healthy scratch the previous two games, returned to the lineup. He replaced LW Niklas Hagman, who was a healthy scratch after going scoreless in 10 games. … Montreal RWDonald Audette returned after missing nine games because of a shoulder injury.