MONTREAL – Despite a rash of injuries and consistent problems, the Montreal Canadiens continue winning games.
Andrei Markov scored the lone goal in the shootout as the Canadiens gave up a two-goal third period lead but held on to beat the Florida Panthers 6-5 on Sunday for their fourth win in five games.
Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau had four guys in uniform Sunday who began the season in the minors and he’s still trying to figure out how the league’s top power play from last year is now ranked near the bottom.
But his team is fourth in the Eastern Conference standings with 50 points in 38 games and has a 10-4-2 record since Nov. 29.
“Our top line is on the shelf, there are five or six guys that would be part of our club who are out, but despite that we’re playing really well,” Carbonneau said. “Tonight was an off night defensively, but we’ve played extremely well over the last month while we’ve had these injuries.”
Andrei Kostitsyn scored twice while Robert Lang, Francis Bouillon and Tom Kostopoulos also scored for the Canadiens (22-10-6), who moved past the idle New York Rangers into fourth place in the conference with two games in hand.
Despite the victory, most of the chatter in the Canadiens room was about the 4-2 third period lead that slipped away when Radek Dvorak sandwiched his two goals around the first of the season for Jassen Cullimore as the Panthers (17-16-6) managed to grab a point.
“We were a little too relaxed,” Markov said. “We need to play 60 minutes and stay focused on the game, if we don’t that’s what will happen.”
Brett McLean and David Booth scored first period goals for the Panthers, who lost for the fourth time in five games.
Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak made 30 saves, but allowed three goals on 11 shots in the third. Halak has allowed eight goals on 57 shots in his last two games starting in place of the injured Carey Price.
“If he’s honest with himself he knows he’s not playing well right now, and it’s a time where he needs to be stronger, but we’re lucky Carey shouldn’t be gone for too long,” Carbonneau said. “If (Halak) wants to be a No. 1 in the NHL he’s going to have to learn how to bounce back from tough games. He had some trouble tonight.”
Anderson was playing his second game in less than 24 hours after stopping 29 shots in a 6-1 win in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Anderson allowed five goals on 45 shots, but stopped 10 of 11 in the third to allow the Panthers to come back.
“We kind of lost the momentum there and didn’t get it back until the third period,” Anderson said. “The guys battled really hard to get us back in the game and get us a point.”
Down 4-2 entering the third the Panthers took control of an up and down game when Dvorak pounced on an Alex Kovalev turnover and scored his fifth on a short-handed breakaway at 2:21.
Kostitsyn quickly got it back with his 11th on a snap shot to the top corner at 3:58, but Cullimore beat a screened Halak for his first of the year at 9:22 to make it 5-4 Montreal.
Following a goalmouth scramble, Halak was still looking for the puck when it came out to Dvorak, who fired home his sixth of the season at 18:22 to tie it up 5-5.
After a scoreless overtime period, Markov beat Anderson with a backhand move between the legs to win it.
“I have only one move, and that’s what I did,” Markov said.
After the Panthers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first the Canadiens dominated the second, outshooting Florida 19-5 and scoring four straight goals.
Montreal scored twice in 28 seconds early in the second to quickly erase the deficit.
Bouillon’s third of the season came on a long slap shot that beat Anderson to the glove side at 1:50.
Off the ensuing faceoff, the puck went in the Panthers end and Anderson came out to the circle to play it. But Sergei Kostitsyn intercepted the puck and found his older brother Andrei in the slot, who had an open net to shoot at for his 10th of the year at 2:18.
The Canadiens had another flurry later in the second, scoring twice in just over two minutes to grab a 4-2 lead.
Kostopoulos was left all alone in front and given three tries before potting his third of the year at 13:27, and Lang’s wrist shot rang off the post, off Anderson and in for his team-leading 12th at 15:33.
The Panthers controlled the game early on and McLean gave them a 1-0 lead when he wheeled around the net and tucked a backhand inside the far post for his third of the year at 12:57.
Then with Josh Gorges and Maxim Lapierre in the box, Booth tipped a Bryan McCabe point shot past Halak for his 16th of the year at 18:09 to make it 2-0 Panthers.
Notes: The Canadiens were missing injured regulars Saku Koivu (leg), Christopher Higgins (shoulder), Alex Tanguay (shoulder), Mathieu Dandenault (arm), Georges Laraque (groin) and starting goalie Price (lower body). …The Panthers were missing Rostislav Olesz (groin), Kamil Kreps (shoulder) and Bryan Allen (knee). …canadiens centre Maxim Lapierre was presented with the Molson Cup Award for December prior to the game. …The game was attended by several NHL executives taking the two-hour drive down from the world junior championships in Ottawa, including 2010 Canadian Olympic team management committee members Steve Yzerman, Ken Holland, Kevin Lowe and Doug Armstrong.