SUNRISE, Fla. – The way Florida Panthers coach Pete DeBoer saw it, his team put together a near-perfect game.
Jay Bouwmeester and Stephen Weiss scored power-play goals in the first period and the Panthers beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 on Thursday night.
“You don’t get many nights like that as a coach where you walk out and feel pretty good about almost every component of how the game went,” DeBoer said. “Now it’s going to be up to us to reproduce that.”
Richard Zednik, Radek Dvorak and Michael Frolik also scored for the Panthers, 7-1-3 in their last 11 games. Weiss added two assists, and Cory Stillman helped set up three goals.
“Probably our best 60 minutes of the season from a system point of view and how we want to play,” DeBoer said. “I think we’ve done a good job of playing to our identity in spurts and at times. Tonight it was the full 60 minutes. I thought we were good from the goaltender on out.”
Dvorak’s goal came on a penalty shot at 11:03 of the third period and gave Florida a 4-1 lead.
Robert Lang scored a power-play goal for Montreal, which ended a five-game road trip with four consecutive losses. The Canadiens, on their longest losing streak since March 2007, gave up at least four goals in every game of the trip.
“We have to find that desperation back in our game,” defenceman Mike Komisarek said. “We need that one shift, one period, one game to get us back on track, and get us playing with confidence, with poise and playing together.”
Tomas Vokoun made 35 saves for Florida, improving to 6-1-2 in his last nine starts.
All-star starter Carey Price, making his third start since missing eight games because of an ankle injury, stopped 31 shots in the loss.
Price hurled his equipment bag in disgust in the locker room before speaking to reporters after the game.
“You go from having the best time of your life to the worst time of your life,” Price said. “We’ve got to pull together. We can’t start pointing fingers now or you’ll never dig yourself out of the hole.”
Montreal had won the three previous meetings this season.
Bouwmeester opened the scoring at 3:54 with his team-leading seventh power-play goal. He put in a rebound after Price stopped Stillman s wrist shot from the wing.
Weiss scored at 15:36 on Florida’s third power play of the first period.
After Florida came close to scoring a couple of times, Weiss’ tip-in of Stillman’s pass from behind the net bounced in off Price’s pads.
“It’s a funny game,” Weiss said. “Sometimes the last few games it seems like the game is going really hard. It feels like you’re going one way and the puck is going the other way. Tonight, kind of the opposite.”
After Lang made it 2-1 at 53 seconds of the second period, Zednik restored Florida’s two-goal lead. Zednik took David Booth’s pass off the boards in the Montreal zone and skated around defenseman Josh Gorges. Zednik held the puck while being tripped by Price and scored into an open net while falling.
“It was a great effort on his part and a good goal,” Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. “But we were still there at 3-1. Our confidence is really low right now and we seemed to go down instead of picking it up and helping each other after that. It was a tough goal for us.”
Dvorak was awarded a penalty shot when he was hooked from behind by Komisarek while on a breakaway. He beat Price with a wrist shot to the glove side on the penalty shot.
Frolik then tipped in Weiss’ pretty no-look backhand pass to make it 5-1 at 13:55.
“It was unbelievable,” Frolik said. “I think he saw me before and he just threw it. It was right on my tape. It was an amazing pass.”
Notes: Montreal’s previous longest losing streak was three games. The Canadiens lost to Tampa Bay, Washington and Carolina in mid-December. … Florida improved to 18-1-1 when leading after two periods. … Canadiens D Andrei Markov had his streak of consecutive games with an assist snapped at nine. … Montreal missed a chance to sweep its first season series against Florida since the Panthers entered the NHL in the 1993-94 campaign.