MONTREAL – Andrei Markov’s long-awaited return to the Montreal blue-line made little impact Saturday night.
Tomas Vokoun made 40 saves and the Florida Panthers got the game-winning goal on a David Booth penalty shot in a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
It was an uneventful night for Markov, whose timing appeared off during stretches of the game. He got 23:03 of ice time and had five shots on net in his first game back since injuring his knee in the second round of last year’s playoffs.
“Sometimes it’s about luck. I got to work on that and that’s what I’m going to do,” said Markov. “It’s my first game, you know, I have to use my skills. I’m not there yet.”
Florida opened the scoring at 12:10 of the first period when Michael Frolik collected his own rebound and put a backhand past Carey Price for his first goal of the year.
Montreal (7-3-1) got even at 2:12 of the second period when, on a delayed penalty, Mathieu Darche beat Marty Reasoner to a loose puck. Darche then drove hard to the net and flipped it over Vokoun.
Price made his best save of the night at the midway point of the second when Booth broke in alone but was denied twice.
Moments after the chance, Booth had another breakaway and was rewarded a penalty shot after being tripped up by Jaroslav Spacek. Booth beat Price with a forehand move up high to make the score 2-1.
Despite having Markov back in the lineup Montreal continued to struggle on the power play—they’ve scored just three goals on 40 opportunities so far this season.
Montreal started the third period with an extended five-on-three power play. The Canadiens tried using four forwards with the advantage and failed to score. Markov didn’t play during the chance.
“We didn’t use him on the first unit last year,” said Montreal’s coach Jacques Martin. “We have a shooter in (P.K.) Subban and a shooter in (Mike) Cammalleri, I think we had some good chances and just didn’t capitalize.”
The Panthers (4-5-0) iced the game when Shawn Matthias picked up a rebound from a Steven Reinprecht shot and buried it.
“You have to play well, you can’t sulk and sometimes you need a kick in the butt to get things going,” said Matthias. “It was definitely a step in the right direction.”
The loss snapped Montreal’s four-game winning streak while the Panthers ended a four-game skid.
“Vokoun was great, we had a lot of energy and we executed our game plan,” said Florida’s coach Peter DeBoer. “We also won a lot of small battles and Vokoun made some big saves.”
Notes: Florida’s Stephen Weiss didn’t play in the game because he turned his ankle during soccer warmups on Saturday. . . Frolik was a healthy scratch on Thursday night in Ottawa. Ryan O’Byrne, Alexandre Picard and Dustin Boyd didn’t play for the Canadiens.