Carey Price made 29 saves for his third shutout of the season as Montreal beat the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Saturday afternoon in the first of back-to-back matinee games for the Canadiens.
Nick Suzuki, Artturi Lehkonen, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher scored for the Canadiens (24-22-7), who have won six of their last eight. Defenceman Jeff Petry assisted on all four goals, the first four-point game of his career.
Playing their first game since Jan. 21, the Panthers (28-17-5) were shut out for the first time this season as their six-game winning streak came to an end. Florida had scored at least four goals in each of those six victories.
Price outduelled Sergei Bobrovsky in the battle of the NHL’s two highest-paid goaltenders. Bobrovsky stopped 31-of-35 shots.
Top-line centre Aleksander Barkov left the game in the second period after taking a hit from Shea Weber along the end boards. The Florida captain did not return.
The break was not beneficial for the Panthers, who were playing their first game in 11 days. The Canadiens had a jump in their step and Florida simply could not keep up.
Suzuki scored the opener at 5:25 of the first on a 2-on-1, short side on Bobrovsky, thanks to a slick one-touch pass from Joel Armia at the blue line.
The visitors struggled to clear bodies out of their crease for most of the game and it cost them in the second.
On missed coverage by Florida, Lehkonen made it 2-0 by redirecting Petry’s shot between Bobrovsky’s pads at 6:01 for his 12th of the season.
Tatar added to Montreal’s lead at 13:35 on a pass from Phillip Danault behind the net. Four Panthers players surrounded Tatar in the crease, but the winger still managed to get his stick on the puck, roofing it for his team-leading 19th goal.
Gallagher made sure Montreal came away with the victory by deflecting Petry’s shot up and over Bobrovsky, on the power play, at 10:46 of the third.
Price did his part to shut down the league’s top-ranked offence. His best stop came on Jonathan Huberdeau with the blocker on a breakaway in the first. He also made a string of saves on a Florida two-man advantage in the third.
The Canadiens are now six points behind the Panthers in a race for playoff hockey. Florida has three games in hand.
Notes: Barkov, Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman saw their point streaks come to an end. Claude Julien coached his 400th regular-season game with the Canadiens. Montreal sent Jesperi Kotkaniemi down to the AHL’s Laval Rocket.