SUNRISE, Fla. — With the crowd clearly behind him and his teammates, Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens made themselves right at home — at the Florida Panthers’ expense.
Price made 30 saves for his seventh shutout of the season and Andrei Kostitsyn and Lars Eller each had a goal and an assist in the Canadiens’ 4-0 victory over the Panthers on Thursday night.
“It was good,” Price said. “I was feeling pretty good out there tonight and our team was snapping it around. I thought our team was playing good two-way hockey. I thought we looked pretty solid tonight.”
The shutout, the 11th of his career, moved him into a tie with Boston’s Tim Thomas for second in the NHL this season. The New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist is the leader with eight.
The seven shutouts are the most by a Montreal goalie since Jose Theodore had seven in the 2001-02 season.
“Price made some big saves at key times when the game was still on the line,” Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. “At the end of the second period on their power play he made a big save. He’s played with a lot of confidence. He’s been a big part of our success.”
The pro-Canadiens crowd at the BankAtlantic began chants of “Ca-rey! Ca-rey!” after Price stopped Stephen Weiss on a breakaway late in the second period and again in the third period after a couple of saves during a goal-mouth scramble.
“It’s definitely odd, but there’s a lot of snowbirds down here,” Price said. “It’s always fun to play down here. It’s almost like playing at home.”
Hal Gill and David Desharnais also scored for the Canadiens, who have won four of their last five. Travis Moen and James Wisniewski each had two assists.
The goal was Gill’s first in 100 games, dating to Dec. 31, 2009, when he scored in the same building.
“I’m on fire,” Gill said, joking. “I’m a steady Eddie. Consistency, that’s my thing. No, it’s nice to get a win and be part of it.”
Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun lasted only 8:54 before he was pulled after giving up two goals on three shots. Backup Scott Clemmensen made 26 saves.
“I don’t blame him on the goals,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. “We needed to do something different. It was two goals on three shots. I’m not sure he saw either of them. We had to make a change. We’re not going to score more than two or three goals. If we’re down 2-0 early, we’ve got to do something to shut the door.”
The Panthers, who dealt four veterans at the trading deadline, lost for the 15th time in 20 games (5-11-4).
Florida has scored six goals in its last six games, including one it was awarded when it won a shootout at Atlanta on Friday night. The Panthers were shut out for the fourth time this season.
“It’s obviously disappointing to be losing the way we are lately,” Clemmensen said. “You just keep trying, going out there and doing your best. You can’t do anything more than that. We were so close all season long, we still are, but if we keep losing we’ll keep slipping further and further behind. We’ve got to get this thing going in the other direction.”
Kostitsyn, whose goal chased Vokoun, extended his points streak to five games after he went nine games without a goal or an assist.
Kostitsyn set up Gill’s goal 5:02 into the game with a nice diagonal cross-ice pass to the point. Gill beat Vokoun with a slap shot through traffic.
Kostitsyn then beat Vokoun with a slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle that bounced in off the far post.
“We were overmatched tonight,” DeBoer said. “Coming into a game like this with the lineup we’ve got you’ve got to have everything go right and it didn’t go right. They got a couple bounces early.”
Desharnais scored at 4:59 of the second period on a strange goal.
After Benoit Pouliot intercepted the puck near the Florida blue line, his pass went off a stick and high into the air. Desharnais gloved the puck and then fired a soft backhander while being taken down to the ice by defenceman Keaton Ellerby. The puck somehow managed to get past Clemmensen.
Eller closed out the scoring at 3:21 of the third when he tipped in Moen’s backhand pass from the corner.
“We’re together, all 60 minutes and we took a lot less penalties than we’ve done the last four, five games,” Eller said. “That makes it easier for us. Carey was great again in the nets. A good team effort all the way around.”
NOTES: DeBoer is a win shy of 100 for his career. … Price extended his career-high victory total to 30. … Florida was scoreless on the power play for the fifth consecutive game. The Panthers were 0-for-3, extending their drought to 0-for-15.