The Florida Panthers were officially eliminated from playoff contention after being by routed 6-2 by the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.
Florida fell to 0-3 on its current road trip which concludes Saturday afternoon in Boston.
Montreal lit up third-string goaltender Reto Berra, making his second start of the season, scoring six goals on 33 shots.
Paul Byron scored twice in the first period, sandwiched around a Tomas Plekanec tally, as the Canadiens raced out to a 3-0 lead.
Brendan Gallagher had a hand in setting up all three of the Montreal goals which came in a furious 5:55 span.
The Panthers came up with the only goal of the second period when Reilly Smith beat Carey Price at the 10:41 mark to finish off a nice cross-ice pass from Jussi Jokinen.
The Canadiens tacked up on three more in the final frame on goals from Max Pacioretty, the aforementioned Gallagher and Phillip Danault.
Alexander Radulov set up both the Pacioretty and Danault markers.
Defenseman Michael Matheson scored Florida’s other goal, to make the score 4-2, with Vincent Trocheck and Mark Pysyk collecting the helpers. The rookie snapped a wrist shot by Price from the edge of the left circle after taking a centering feed from Trocheck.
Carey Price finished with 29 stops to help his club emphatically clinch a playoff spot and open up a six-point lead on Ottawa for the Atlantic Division title. The same title won by the Panthers last season. What a difference a year makes...
Habs & Hab nots
- Montreal won its third straight game and is 12-5-1 since replacing head coach Michel Therrien with Claude Julien.
- Swiss rookie Denis Malgin returned to the Florida lineup and finished the game with an ugly -5 rating. Malgin did manage a shot on goal and dished out three hits.
- Joining Malgin in the -5 club was defenseman Jason Demers, who played in his 500th NHL game.
- Brendan Gallagher’s four-point night was the first of his NHL career. His third period goal was his tenth of the season.
- Before Reilly Smith finally got the Panthers on the board, the fading club failed to take advantage of 1:22 of 5-on-3 time.
- Eyes On The Prize has the other side of Montreal’s big win over Florida. The two teams meet again on Monday night in Sunrise.