Canadiens take Atlantic with 4-1 win over Panthers

Marchessault nets 30th in Cats fifth straight loss

The down-and-out Florida Panthers were beaten 4-1 by the Montreal Canadiens at the BB&T Center Monday night.

The win clinched first place in the Atlantic Division for the Canadiens, while the sagging Panthers lost for the fifth straight time.

Montreal opened the scoring 13:12 into the first period when Andrew Shaw collected the rebound Alex Galchenyuk’s sharp angle shot in the slot and beat Reto Berra for his 12th goal. The secondary assist on the play went to Artturi Lehkonen. Remember that name...

Jonathan Marchessault became the first Panther to hit the 30-goal mark since the 2008-09 season when he patiently held on to the puck and then slipped it past Charlie Lindgren at 8:57 of the second after taking a little backhand drop pass from Michael Sgarbossa. Mark Pysyk started the play off in the neutral zone to earn the second assist.

Lehkonen put the Canadiens ahead at 1:25 of the third period when he picked up a loose puck that Michael Matheson couldn’t corral and quickly ripped a top shelf shot by Berra unassisted.

The Finnish rookie added another with 3:11 left in regulation by blasting the rebound of Paul Byron’s missed breakaway attempt into the net for the clincher. Byron got the breakaway when Alex Petrovic left his feet to try to hold the puck in the Montreal zone.

The Canadiens completed the scoring 1:45 later on Alex Radulov’s empty-netter from center ice. Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault drew the assists on Radulov’s 18th. The helper stretched Pacioretty’s scoring streak to five games.

Charlie Lindgren, making just his second NHL start, and first of the season, made 31 saves for Montreal.

The division title sets up a first round playoff date with the New York Rangers for the Canadiens, while the Panthers are left to host St. Louis and Buffalo before finishing the regular season in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.

Habs & Hab nots

  • Florida forward Jonathan Huberdeau played in his 300th career game. He finished the tilt with three shots on goal, a block, two takeaways and -2 rating.
  • In other milestones, Keith Yandle played in 630th consecutive game, good for eighth place all-time, and Montreal’s Phillip Danault played in his 100th career game.
  • Reto Berra made his third straight start for the Cats and turned away 27 of 30 shots faced. Berra fell to 0-5 with 3.45 GAA for Florida this season.
  • Artturi Lehkonen’s two-goal, one-assist performance equaled his high for goals and points in a game set against Winnipeg on January 11. Lehkonen led all players with five shots.
  • Defenseman MacKenzie Weegar made his NHL debut against the Canadiens. The seventh-rounder in the 2013 draft finished with a shot, two hits and even rating in 16:45 TOI.
  • Jonathan Marchessault became the first Cat to hit the 30-goal plateau since David Booth bagged 31 back in 2008-09. If you are wondering what became of Booth, he played for Omsk Avangard of the KHL this year.
  • Vincent Trocheck failed to dent the twine for the 17th consecutive game. Trocheck caught the post on a 3-on-1 break in the third.
  • For more on season-series finale, check out Eyes On The Prize./