Mission Accomplished: Panthers claim Atlantic Division crown with 4-1 win over Canadiens
Cats break the 100-point barrier for first time in franchise hstory
The surging Florida Panthers beat the Montreal Canadiens by a 4-1 count at Bell Centre last night to break the 100-point barrier for the first time in the history of the franchise. The win, coupled with the Tampa Bay Lightning's 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers, clinched the top spot in the Atlantic Division with two games left on the regular season slate.
Speaking of franchise history, Aleksander Barkov opened the scoring just ten seconds into the action, matching Johan Garpenlov's long-standing club record. Barkov took an entry pass from Jaromir Jagr and beat Mike Condon from the left face-off dot for his 28th of the season. Jonathan Huberdeau earned the secondary assist to extend his scoring streak to seven games, matching the red-hot Barkov.
The Canadiens responded by testing Roberto Luongo fourteen times, but the veteran netminder was up to the task, keeping his team ahead by one after twenty minutes.
The second period saw the Cats kill off a couple of minor penalties before the Habs cashed in on their third opportunity of the frame. Alex Galchenyuk got the goal at the 11-minute mark, completing a pretty triangular passing play involving Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher after the latter stripped Dmitry Kulikov of the puck.
Nick Bjugstad took advantage of a goalie interference call on Gallagher with 12.2 seconds left in the stanza to give the Cats the lead back. The rangy Minnesotan blasted home a drop pass from Teddy Purcell to complete the late 4-on-2 rush. Jagr was also credited with an assist for his second point of the night.
Florida added to its lead 8:58 into the third when Aaron Ekblad's shot from point ended up in front and Greg McKegg was able to collect the puck after Shawn Thornton took a swipe and put it past Condon. Ekblad now has six assists in his last four games.
Jiri Hudler completed the scoring with another Panther power-play goal with 1:19 remaining. Hudler fired the puck by Condon after taking a nice feed from Purcell for his sixteenth goal. Jakub Kindl drew the second helper on Hudler's sixth in 17 games with the Cats.
Luongo finished with 32 saves to post his 34th victory of the campaign.
The Panthers will put their four-game winning streak on the line when they visit the Ottawa Senators to close out the three-game road trip.
Cote et Fins
- Brian Campbell suited up for his 1,000th NHL game last night. Campbell has now played in 374 straight games since joining the club (and 384 straight overall), breaking Olli Jokinen's club record.
- Aleksander Barkov scored a goal for the fourth game in a row. His game-opener ten seconds in equaled Johan Garpenlov's fastest mark, which came against the Colorado Avalanche back on October 17, 1996.
- In addition to the seven-game point streaks of Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad's game-winning goal extended his to three games.
- The Panthers were able to beat Montreal goaltender Mike Condon four times on just 19 shots.
- Speaking of shots, Brendan Gallagher fired a game-high seven of them on Roberto Luongo.
- Alex Petrovic filled in for Erik Gudbranson and finished the game with two shots, a block and three hits. Well done, sir.
- The fine folks at war-on-ice have the advanced stats breakdown for you here.
- NHL.com has a highlight package you can see with your own les yeux.
- Visit Eyes On The Prize for the other side of the win that completed the Cats' season-series sweep./