The Canadiens have clinched a playoff spot for three consecutive years, and have appeared in seven of the past eight postseasons.
"At the end of the day, we need to get momentum going into the playoffs," Pacioretty said. "That’s our goal right now. It’s a good step in the right direction, but we know we have work to do."
Aleksander Barkov had a pair of goals for the Panthers, while Roberto Luongo made 21 saves in defeat.
After a scoreless third period, Pacioretty scored the winner on the power play just seconds after Florida’s Vincent Trocheck took a penalty for high sticking.
Near the end of a mostly uneventful first period, defenseman Greg Pateryn levelled Florida’s Jimmy Hayes with an emphatic hip check in front of the players’ bench. Hayes took a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play.
"I don’t think it was dirty in any way," said Pateryn, who had five hits on the night. "He wasn’t happy with it and thought there should have been a penalty, but he overreacted."
As the penalty expired, Eller jumped on a loose puck to Luongo’s left and buried his first goal in seven games at 17:37. Jeff Petry got an assist on the goal, his first point with Montreal.
"It worked in our favor," Pateryn said of his hip check on Hayes. "Getting a hit like that gets you in the game."
At 6:09 of the second, Barkov’s nifty backhand shot beat Price to make it 1-1 after a clever behind-the-back pass by Jonathan Huberdeau sent Barkov in alone.
Huberdeau fed Barkov again at 13:11, this time a redirect over Price’s shoulder, for the Panthers’ first power-play goal in their past seven games. Montreal put an end to its own power-play woes less than two minutes later when Galchenyuk tied it at 2, beating Luongo for his 20th of the year.
Brendan Gallagher came inches from giving the Canadiens a 3-2 lead with three minutes on the clock in the third, but Luongo made an acrobatic save to keep the puck from crossing the goal line.
"Lu was great in all areas," Florida defenseman Brian Campbell. "Obviously, it was a highlight-reel save from him. He’s there to protect us and save us, and he definitely gave us a chance."
NOTES: Montreal’s Tom Gilbert (upper body) missed his third consecutive game. Devante Smith-Pelley and Manny Malhotra were healthy scratches. Brian Flynn dressed for the first time in six games. … The Canadiens’ P.K. Subban played his 200th consecutive game. He last missed a game on Jan. 30, 2013. … Barkov recorded the first multigoal game of his career. .. Montreal’s Alexei Emelin had five blocked shots.