MONTREAL (AP)—A little rest helped Roberto Luongo get ready for a stellar hometown appearance.
Jokinen, who scored in the first period to reach 20 goals for the second straight season, flew down the left side and wristed a shot past Mathieu Garon for his 21st goal, ending Florida’s three-game losing streak.
“It’s important for us to step up, especially after a 5-0 loss against Toronto, so I think everybody responded well from that,” Luongo said.
Luongo, a Montreal native, stopped 15 shots in the third when the Canadiens held a 16-4 advantage and pressed for the go-ahead goal.
“He gives us a great chance to win every single night,” Jokinen said. “I think last week he was a little bit tired and he had a couple of bad games, but he got a night off against the Maple Leafs and we wanted to make sure he was ready to play tonight. He’s been outstanding all year.”
The Panthers ended their season series against Montreal unbeaten in four (2-0-1-1).
“The other game here was a 1-0 game where they scored in the last minute on a power play, and we should have won that one,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “Both games in Florida we had leads and we let them slip away, so we were always in a position where we could have won, but for whatever reason, we never seem to play our best hockey against that hockey club.
“They work hard, they’ve got confidence against us and they seem to play their best hockey against us.”
Montreal’s Yanic Perreault scored his 13th of the season 3:47 into the third to tie it at 2.
Florida’s Josh Olson scored in his NHL debut 1:40 into the period to put the Panthers up 2-1. Florida won for just the second time in seven games (2-4-1).
“If we came out and lost the game, it wouldn’t have felt so good,” Olson said of his first career goal. “But Olli made a heck of a shot there at the end to win it for us.”
Garon made 29 saves, and Francis Bouillon also scored for the Canadiens, who had a three-game winning snapped but earned a point for the ninth time in 10 games (8-1-0-1).
The Canadiens, who have missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons, are seventh in the Eastern Conference with 83 points, one fewer than New Jersey.
Alexei Kovalev returned to the Canadiens’ lineup and made his Bell Centre debut. He missed the final two games of Montreal’s 3-1 road trip after separating a shoulder in the first period of a win at Phoenix.
Kovalev’s second shift drew more cheers followed by a stunned gasp when he showcased his skill with a flip pass that set up a scoring chance for Ryder.
“I don’t think I’ve had anything like that in my life,” Kovalev said of his reception.
Jokinen scored his 20th goal 8:32 in with the teams playing four-on-four. Jokinen took a pass from Jay Bouwmeester off Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov’s left leg and one-timed a shot from the slot past Garon’s glove.
Bouillon tied it 7:18 into the second when he took a pass from Saku Koivu and drove a shot through Luongo’s legs.
Olson, recalled from San Antonio of the AHL on Thursday, quieted the enthusiastic crowd when he banged home Donald Audette’s rebound from the edge of the crease.
At 3:47, Perreault slapped Richard Zednik’s rebound past Luongo to tie it at2.
Olson, chosen 190th overall by the Panthers in the 2000 draft, had 19 goals and 10 assists in 59 games with San Antonio. … Canadiens C Jim Dowd also made his home debut. Dowd had a goal and an assist during the last three games of Montreal’s road trip after he was acquired in a trade with Minnesota on March 4. … Canadiens RW Pierre Dagenais was a healthy scratch despitescoring two goals in three games.