Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher attempts to wrap the puck around the post past Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom in Sunrise, Fla., on Sunday night.
Photograph by: Joel Auerbach, Getty Images
SUNRISE, Fla. — The Canadiens put an exclamation mark Sunday on a gruelling stretch of games, defeating the Florida Panthers 5-2 before a dramatically inflated announced crowd of 19,189 at BB&T Centre.
The Habs’ nine-day stretch of six games, the last five on the road, produced nine of 12 points, including eight of 10 in the five away from the Bell Centre.
The victory, Montreal’s third straight, pushed the Canadiens three points ahead of Boston atop the Eastern Conference, though the Bruins hold four games in hand. They’ll make up one of them Monday in Ottawa vs. the Senators.
David Desharnais, Michael Ryder (with his 100th and 101st in a Canadiens uniform), Brian Gionta and Francis Bouillon scored for the Canadiens. The Habs were up 4-0 before the Panthers scored twice deep in the third period, Ryder’s second of the night then putting it away.
Habs goalie Peter Budaj, in for No. 1 Carey Price on the second night of Florida back-to-backs, made 14 saves to run his season record to 4-1-1, with the Canadiens firing 38 shots at the Panthers’ Jacob Markstrom.
Spreading the wealth: Ryder added an assist to his two goals, while P.K. Subban earned three points on three assists. Gionta (goal, assist) and Tomas Plekanec (two assists) also had multiple-point nights.
Restrained Ryan: Twice this season, Ryan White has taken costly double minors for his indiscipline and short fuse. On Sunday, he took a slash from Florida’s Nick Yonkman late in the first period, then let Yonkman use his head as a speed bag without so much as a blink of reply. The result? Yonkman took a double minor. Sadly, the Canadiens couldn’t do anything on a four-minute power play to repay White’s remarkable restraint.
Ironman no more: Brandon Prust’s team-leading ironman streak of 223 consecutive games played hit the wall Sunday. Prust had last missed a game on Jan. 15, 2010, as a member of the New York Rangers. Leading the Habs’ straight-games parade now is Ryder, with a modest 112, followed by Josh Gorges, 107; Tomas Plekanec, 46; and Desharnais, 38.
Fading from view: Defenceman Tomas Kaberle, acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in early December 2011, seems to be less a part of the Canadiens’ plans by the minute. Kaberle was a healthy scratch Sunday night for the 15th time this season, taking a seat for the second straight game in favour of Hamilton Bulldogs call-up Greg Pateryn.
Numbers game: Gionta played his 200th game in a Canadiens uniform on Sunday. … Defenceman Alexei Emelin had three assists in his first 19 games this season. In his last seven, including Sunday’s game, he has two goals and five assists.
What’s next: The Canadiens will fly home Monday morning, take the rest of the day off and return to practice Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday’s Bell Centre visit by the Senators. The Habs are in New Jersey Saturday night to face the Devils, wrapping up an uncommonly quiet three-game week.
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