SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Max Pacioretty kept the Montreal Canadiens on a roll.
Pacioretty had two goals and an assist to help the Canadiens extend their winning streak to five games with a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
Thomas Vanek added a goal and an assist for Montreal and Carey Price made 36 saves. David Desharnais had an empty-net goal.
This was the first time Pacioretty has scored goals against the Panthers. Coming into the game, Pacioretty had never scored on 50 shots in 16 career games against the Panthers, although he did have eight assists.
”It’s a good feeling. I haven’t been able to score against this team so it’s nice to come into this building a put a few on the board,” Pacioretty said.
Both of Pacioretty’s goals were similar; standing near the crease and waiting for a pass to redirect into the net.
”I got set up perfectly for both goals,” he said.
Pacioretty’s second goal put the Canadiens ahead 3-0 in the second period. Pacioretty camped at edge of the crease and tipped in a pass from Desharnais at 14:00 for his 35th of the season, a career high. Pacioretty has 11 points in his past 10 games.
”Nothing really special (about the number of goals) I’m trying to get better every year, and every year my game has gotten better,” Pacioretty said.
The Canadiens are playing their best hockey at an opportune time, winning eight of their past nine.
”Obviously, we’re trying to make a push toward the playoffs. It’s all about timing and being able to play well at the right time,” Price said.
The Canadiens seem to be hitting a groove, with good efforts from top players such as Pacioretty and Vanek and solid goaltending from Price.
”They played really well again tonight,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. ”The chemistry is there; they are having a lot of fun playing together and it worked out again tonight.”
Brad Boyes scored for Florida and Dan Ellis stopped 15 shots for the Panthers, who have lost five of their past six games.
The Panthers closed to 3-1 on Boyes’ goal. Boyes took a pass from Sean Bergenheim and wristed it past Price at 16:09 of the second. Boyes leads the Panthers with 19 goals, but that was his first in eight games.
”No finish. We generated a lot of shots, a lot of chances … again, a lack of scoring obviously hurt us,” Boyes said.
The Canadiens’ two leading scorers each had goals in the first.
Montreal went ahead 2-0 on the first goal by Pacioretty. Daniel Briere passed from the left side across to Pacioretty at the right side of the crease, who tipped it in with 2:57 left in the first.
The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead on Vanek’s goal. Vanek took a shot from the slot that Ellis blocked but the puck drifted under Ellis’ pads toward the net. Ellis couldn’t find the puck but Vanek did and he skated in and poked it in at 10:47 of the first, his 27th of the season.
Vanek has six goals and 10 points over his past seven games.
Desharnais empty-net goal came with 23.4 seconds left.
”Price was the biggest difference,” Panthers coach Peter Horachek said.
”They’re a very mature team that capitalizes on their chances.”
Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo missed the game after sustaining a neck injury during a collision with Carolina’s Radek Dvorak on Thursday. Luongo is day to day.
NOTES: The Panthers recalled Scott Clemmensen from AHL San Antonio on Saturday to back up Ellis. … Canadiens C Tomas Plekanec missed Saturday’s game due to personal reasons.