After barely averting what would have been a morale-sapping defeat, the Montreal Canadiens go for a sweep of their two-game trek through the Sunshine State when they visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. The Canadiens halted a three-game winless streak the hard way, prevailing in a shootout at Tampa Bay on Tuesday after squandering a 3-0 lead in the final six minutes of regulation. Montreal dominated the Panthers 4-1 on Jan. 22 to halt a string of four straight losses to Florida.
The Panthers also let a late lead slip away on Tuesday night as the Washington Capitals scored 32 seconds into overtime for a 3-2 victory. Florida seemingly had recovered from an early five-game losing streak, going 3-0-1 before running into the Capitals, who amassed 11 goals in sweeping the home-and-home series. Only the Buffalo Sabres (48) have surrendered more goals than the Panthers (46), who have played two fewer games.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS (Montreal), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (7-4-1): Montreal is seeking to reverse a disturbing trend that has seen the club cough up a third-period lead in three of the past four games - two of which resulted in losses to Northeast Division rivals Boston and Buffalo. One positive for the Canadiens was ending a pair of lengthy scoring droughts. Captain Brian Gionta notched his first goal in nine games and Travis Moen found the net for the first time in 13 1/2 months. David Desharnais has gone four games without a point but produced the lone goal in the shootout Tuesday.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (4-7-1): Jose Theodore is expected back in net to face his former team. The veteran netminder was yanked after allowing five goals on 21 shots in a 5-0 loss at Washington last Saturday. Florida's late collapse spoiled what had been strong performances from rookies Jonathan Huberdeau and Drew Shore. Huberdeau scored a pair of goals, giving him five on the season, and linemate Shore netted his first career tally to go along with an assist. Peter Mueller added two assists to make it a six-point night for the "Kid Line."
1. Florida's Tomas Fleischmann needs one goal to reach 100 for his career.
2. Theodore is 2-2-1 with a bloated 4.60 goals-against average against Montreal.
3. Panthers LW Kris Versteeg is questionable for Thursday's game.
Canadiens 4, Panthers 2