By Bill Whitehead
SUNRISE, Fla. – Aleksander Barkov scored a goal and was instrumental in the game-winner as the Florida Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over Montreal in front of 19,891 at the BB&T Center on Sunday.
With the game tied 1-1 after goals by Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov and Montreal’s Brandon Prust, Brian Campbell scored the go-ahead goal in the second period with Barkov creating havoc in front of Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj. Campbell’s fifth goal gave Florida (15-20-5) the lead it would never relinquish.
“I asked them before the game to play a whole complete game,” said Florida coach Peter Horachek. “We need to play 60 minutes and start the game well. A 60-minute effort is what I asked for and I think we got that.”
Florida grabbed a 1-0 lead 6:10 into the first period in a 4-on-4 situation when Tomas Fleischmann chipped a puck out of the Panthers’ zone to himself, skated down the right side and cut back through the slot. Dmitry Kulikov then slapped in a pass from Fleischmann that beat Montreal goalie Peter Budaj, playing in place of Carey Price, who beat the Lightning 2-1 in a shootout in Tampa on Saturday. Kulikov’s goal was his second of the season, the first coming against Chicago on Oct. 22.
The Canadiens had a goal waved off later when Brian Gionta was called for a high-stick infraction. Gionta continued the play, passing the puck from just beyond the blue line to a streaking Rene Bourque, who tapped in the pass past Florida netminder Scott Clemmensen.
Montreal (23-14-3) had a second goal waved off in the third period when Alex Galchenyuk made contact with Clemmensen before Danny Briere netted the marker.
“It’s really frustrating,” said Montreal coach Michel Therrien. “The first goal that they refused, Brian Gionta said it never touched the stick. The second goal, it was clearly a crosscheck by them against Galchenyuk. So it’s one of those nights. It’s frustrating. It’s a frustrating night, but honestly we didn’t have the same jump and intensity as last night.”
Added Gionta, who said he didn’t touch the puck, “It’s deflating, but that’s not why we lost. We didn’t play a good all-around game. They deserved to win. We didn’t have the effort we needed. We got outbattled a lot and lost a lot of pucks. They seemed to have more speed in the neutral zone and we couldn’t contain that.”
Budaj felt Galchenyuk was pushed into Clemmensen, but the Florida goalie insisted the officials made the right call.
“I think it was a good call. I was in the crease and the guy came in behind me, and kind of pushed me out. I think I went my first 11 years without getting a goal called back on me. This is my 13th year pro and last year I had one and already a couple this year,” Clemmensen said.
Prust spun from the low slot and sent a shot that seemed to be going wide of Clemmensen, but the puck banged off the Iowa native’s stick and in at 2:56 for his fourth goal.
Florida took control the remaining 16 minutes and outshot the Habs 11-5 in the period.
After Campbell’s shot bounced high off Budaj, the puck fell into a scrum led by Barkov. The Finnish rookie was originally credited with the goal, but it was awarded to Campbell during the intermission as the puck bounced off Budaj instead of Barkov.
“We match up well against them. We’re desperate when we play them. It’s only two games we’ve played them. If we play like that we can be a good team in this league,” said Campbell, who was unaware he had the goal until told of it in post-game interviews.
Barkov scored for good almost 10 minutes later in a play started by linemate Brad Boyes, who collected the puck in front of Florida’s bench and reversed the action. Boyes passed to Tom Gilbert (two assists), and the defenseman sent the puck to Barkov, who deflected it beyond Budaj for his seventh goal, eighteenth point and a 3-1 Florida lead.
Sean Bergenheim backhanded in an empty-net goal with 17 seconds left for the final tally – his fourth in the last three games. Clemmensen stopped 21 shots in running his record to 5-4-1 this year and 8-1 all-time against Montreal.