Belfour made 32 saves, and Nathan Horton scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period in the Florida Panthers’ 3-1 victory over Montreal on Friday night.
“The first 40 minutes it was Eddie Belfour,” Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. “I thought we had tons of chances…really good chances to put the game away, and he stood really tall.”
As often is the case, Belfour did not speak to the media.
“Eddie stole the show, he played great for us,” Florida’s Chris Gratton said. “He kept us in the game. They had some great chances and he made some big, big saves for us and it allowed us to gain some confidence and move in the other direction.”
“When we did make mistakes, Eddie was there to close the door,” Panthers coach Jacques Martin said.
Gregory Campbell added a third-period goal to help the Panthers win for the fifth time in their last seven games. A standing-room crowd of 19,772 set a BankAtlantic Center record for a hockey game.
Florida’s Ville Peltonen and Montreal’s Mark Streit scored first-period goals.
Cristobal Huet made 25 saves for Montreal. The Canadiens had won six of their previous seven games.
“During the first 40 minutes, we made the strong plays in our zone and didn’t give them second chances,” Carbonneau said. “On both goals in the third period, we had the puck and just lost it.”
Horton scored his 14th goal at 5:59 of the third to give Florida a 2-1 lead.
After Panthers defenceman Branislav Mezei kept the puck in the Montreal zone at the blue line, Gary Roberts grabbed the puck and skated deep into the zone. Roberts fed Horton, who fired a wrist shot from the left circle to beat Huet short side.
“That’s really a goal scorer’s goal,” Martin said.
Campbell scored his second goal at 9:41, poking the puck through a crowd in front of the Canadiens’ net.
“It was the kind of a goal you expect out of me – a dirty goal, a hard-working goal,” Campbell said.
Peltonen scored his fifth goal at 2:54 of the first period after taking a centring pass from Gratton, who was behind and to the left of the Montreal net.
Streit knotted the score at 14:43 when his second goal came on a rebound of Chris Higgins’ shot on a two-on-one break.
“We had enough chances to take the lead and manage the game and get a win, but we just didn’t bury our chances,” Streit said.
Notes: Florida C Stephen Weiss returned after missing seven games because of a shoulder injury. He assisted on Campbell’s goal. … The crowd, apparently including many vacationing Canadians, favoured Montreal by about a 60-40 split. “Tonight was special because South Florida is like a city of Quebecers during Christmas (week),” Montreal defenceman Guillaume Latendresse said. … Florida’s only other sellout this season was opening night against Boston on Oct. 6. … The Panthers finished 7-5-2 in December.