The Montreal Canadiens’ collapse was a boon for the red-hot Florida Panthers.
The Panthers look to extend their longest winning streak in almost eight years Tuesday night against the Canadiens, who are trying to build on their first win in seven games.
Montreal (21-14-3) opened the season with nine straight wins and was atop the Atlantic Division at 19-4-3 following a win over Columbus on Dec. 1. The Canadiens followed that by losing 10 of 11 games and six in a row before beating Tampa Bay 4-3 in a shootout Monday.
"It’s nice to see the big smiles and hear the music after the game because it was well deserved," coach Michel Therrien said.
Florida (20-12-4) has been doing plenty of smiling during Montreal’s struggles. The Panthers were sixth in the division, 16 points back of the Canadiens on Nov. 27 before a 12-3-0 stretch.
They’ve won six straight for the first time since a seven-game winning streak from March 2-16, 2008.
Florida outshot Columbus 19-1 and scored twice in the first period en route to a 3-2 win Sunday. That put the Panthers atop the division, but Montreal reclaimed the lead by one point Monday.
"It’s exciting," coach Gerard Gallant said. "It’s almost a new year and being in first place means a lot."
Aleksander Barkov recorded his first two-goal game of the season Sunday. The center has scored seven of his nine goals at home, but the venue hasn’t mattered against the Canadiens. He has three goals and one assist in the last four overall matchups.
Jonathan Huberdeau leads Florida with 19 assists, tallying five over the past four games after setting up both of Barkov’s scores Sunday. He has six assists in his last five meetings with Montreal.
The Panthers have lost six of their last seven meetings with the Canadiens, including four straight at home while being outscored 12-5.
Montreal is aiming for back-to-back wins for the first time since a four-game streak from Nov. 20-27.
The Canadiens may have Ben Scrivens in net for the first time after acquiring him from Edmonton in exchange for Zack Kassian on Monday. He served as the backup to rookie Mike Condon, who made 36 saves and turned aside two of three shootout attempts against the Lightning.
Scrivens, who also has spent time with Los Angeles and Toronto, hasn’t played in the NHL this season, going 2-6-1 with a 3.47 goals-against average with AHL Bakersfield.
He’s 3-1-0 with a 1.51 GAA and two shutouts in four career starts against the Panthers.
Condon had been getting the bulk of the playing time with Carey Price (leg) out.
Max Pacioretty leads Montreal with 14 goals and 28 points, but he’s only managed one goal and two assists in the past 12 games. He showed signs of pulling out of his funk Monday, setting up Dale Weise’s game-tying tally with 5:46 left in regulation before netting the decisive shootout try.
Pacioretty has 13 points in 22 career meetings with the Panthers, but just four in 12 visits to Florida – none in the last three.
Tomas Plekanec had one goal and two assists in a 4-1 win at BB&T Center on April 5. He enters this one after scoring his first goal in 22 games Monday.