MONTREAL – The Florida Panthers got the timely goal, and the Canadiens didn’t. That was enough to stretch Montreal’s winless run to six games and counting.
Rangy goaltender Jacob Markstrom stopped 40 shots and Scottie Upshall got the game-winning goal at 5:02 of the third period as the Panthers downed Montreal 2-1 on Monday night.
The Canadiens (1-5-2) remained last in the NHL Eastern Conference after yet another loss in a game they felt they could have won. Instead, they are 0-4-2 in their last six games and are winless on home ice (0-2-3) in 2011-12.
”We’re doing some good things, it’s not like we’re doing everything bad, but it’s just not enough,” said Montreal centre Tomas Plekanec. ”We had some shots. We had pressure. We’re outshooting the opponent every game. But it’s not enough.”
And it won’t quiet the discontent of their fans, who booed through much of the third period, or quell the calls from the public and some in the media for coach Jacques Martin to be fired.
All looked promising for the Canadiens when off-season signing Erik Cole spotted the home side an early lead with a rare power play goal.
But Tomas Fleischmann got it back with a strange power-play goal late in the first period for the Panthers (5-3-0), who won a second game in a row.
The Canadiens had their chances. They outshot Florida 41-31. But six-foot-six goaltender Markstrom excelled, particularly during a first-period power play when the Canadiens were all over his net and in the final minute when they pressed desperately for the equalizer during a power play with goaltender Peter Budaj pulled for an extra attacker.
”He’s like a Transformer,” Upshall said of the rookie Markstrom, who backs up starter Jose Theodore. ”We’re not sure if he’s human or if he’s part alien.”
The loss also saw the Canadiens lose another regular as forward Max Pacioretty left late in the second frame with what Martin called an upper body injury. The left winger’s injury is to be evaluated on Tuesday.
They were already without defencemen Andrei Markov and forwards Scott Gomez and Ryan White, but other teams have worse injuries and have found ways to win.
Cole got his first goal as a Canadien, but said ”it doesn’t really matter does it?
”We did some good things. We did have some opportunities, but it’s all still the same. We’re tired of it. We need to find away to get over the hump.”
Cole said Markstrom ”played reasonably well, but we were missing the second and third opportunities. We need maybe to be a little tougher in those areas in front of the net to get those type of goals.”
Martin called for his team to do some self examination, look at what they did right and wrong, and stay positive.
”There is urgency, the players understand that,” he said. ”Tonight it wasn’t a question of urgency, it was question of certain mistakes at certain times that cost us. It’s disappointing to lose games that we could have won, but it’s a matter of improving some things and to keep working.”
Martin had taken heat for not using Cole on the power play, but had him out on the second unit for the first chance of the night and it worked as he crowded the net and tipped in a Raphael Diaz point shot 3:08 into the game.
The Panthers got it back as the puck slipped off Michael Cammalleri’s stick and was lying in a thicket of legs in the crease when Fleischmann poked it in off a skate to tie the game at 15:59
Upshall was battling with Hal Gill in front of Budaj and tipped a harmless looking point shot in off the post.
Cole scored only the third power play goal for Montreal in 32 chances this season, and their first in a 5-on-4 situation. The others were a 5-on-3 and a 4-on-3.
The Panthers opened a three-game road trip that takes them to Ottawa on Thursday and Buffalo on Saturday. Montreal remains at home to face Philadelphia on Wednesday before back-to-back games with Boston.
Budaj made his first start in goal for Montreal.
Petteri Nokelainen, acquired Sunday in a deal with Phoenix, played his first game for Montreal and made a key clearing play after two teammates broke sticks intheir own zone. He also won all four faceoffs he took. Call-up Mike Blunden also played his first game.
Notes : With Jaroslav Spacek’s return from a rib injury, Alexei Emelin sat out for Montreal. . . Marco Sturm, pick up Saturday in the deal that sent David Booth to Vancouver, made his Panthers debut. Mikael Samuelsson remains in Vancouver for treatment on an injury. . . Mike Santorelli returned for Florida, bumping Ryan Carter from the lineup.