Sam Bennett, who returned to the lineup after missing Thursday’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, scored twice and Jonathan Huberdeau set up three goals in the Florida Panthers 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Bennett quickly put Florida ahead 32 seconds in when he arrived in the slot to convert a nifty, no-look backhand pass from Anthony Duclair, with the second assist going to Huberdeau.
Jonathan Drouin tied the matinee affair up 3:16 later when he deflected Sami Niku’s hard pass by Sergei Bobrovsky. The second assist on the goal went to David Savard.
The Canadiens forged ahead midway through the second when Niku passed off to Nick Suzuki, who then set up Jesse Yloenen and his shot was stopped by Bobrovsky. Unfortunately, the rebound came right back to a wide-open Suzuki, who fired it off the post and into an empty net.
Florida would draw even at the 15:02 mark with Corey Schueneman off for hooking. The Panthers moved the puck around nicely, with Huberdeau going down low to Sam Reinhart, who fed across the goal mouth to the waiting Aleksander Barkov for the one-timer which found short-side twine.
Reinhart would deliver another perfect pass with 2;30 left in the frame to put the Cats on top. Owen Tippett went cross-ice to Reinhart, who entered the Montreal zone and waited for an onrushing Frank Vatrano, and he was able to redirect the puck by Sam Montembeault.
Bennett scored early again, this time 15 seconds into the third, to give the Panthers a two-goal lead. After Duclair got the puck to Huberdeau, he shoveled it back to MacKenize Weegar at the left point. Weegar let go of a shot that Bennett was able to tidily deflect down and under the Montreal keeper.
Mason Marchment completed the scoring at 13:04 when Anton Lundell’s pass up the boards set up a 2-on-1 break. Rather than go to Patric Hornqvist, Marchment decided to shoot and solved Montembeault’s glove with a rising wrister from the right circle. It was Marchment’s first goal since October 27.
After a bit of a sleepy start, the Panthers took control of the game and put away shorthanded Montreal, who played with 11 forwards and five defensemen. Florida earned its NHL-leading 17th home win of the season, their most wins through 20 home games to start a season in franchise history. The Cats outshot the Canadiens 48-31, outhit them 29-25, won 56% of the faceoffs and killed off all three Montreal power plays. Florida went 3-0 this week after returning from the holiday break, outscoring its opponents by a combined 18-8. The Panthers will conclude the four-game homestand on Tuesday against the Calgary Flames.
Cote et Fins
- Jonathan Huberdeau racked up more three assists to become the first Cat to hit 40 points this season. With eight points (1G/7A) over his past two games, he became the first player in club history to produce eight points over a two-game span twice in the same season.
- Recently returned Aleksander Barkov notched a goal for the second consecutive game. He is tied with Anthony Duclair for the club lead in goals scored this season with 12.
- Also scoring for a second straight contest was Frank Vatrano. The Tank has produced three points over his last two tilts.
- Despite giving up five goals, former Panther Sam Montembeault played well and finished the game with 43 saves.
- Radko Gudas dished out four hits to bring his career total to 2,028, surpassing Roman Polak for most hits by a Czech-born player in NHL history. Congrats, Radek!
- Montreal forward Cameron Hillis played 10:50 and had two shots on goal in his NHL debut.
- For more on the first in a long time against the Habs, visit Eyes On The Prize.