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Streaking Panthers cruise past Canadiens

By Rick Menning

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SUNRISE, Florida (Ticker) -- If the Florida Panthers had things

their way, the calendar always would read January.

Stephen Weiss recorded a goal and two assists as the Panthers

ended a losing streak against the Montreal Canadiens and

maintained their red-hot play this month with a 5-1 victory on

Thursday.

Along with securing its second straight win since the All-Star

break, Florida snapped a five-game skid against Montreal.

Weiss and All-Star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester scored power-play

goals in the first period and Radek Dvorak converted on a

penalty shot midway through the third for the Panthers.

"A great all-around game," Weiss said. "We had the will and the

skill tonight."

Florida coach Peter DeBoer had nothing but high praise for the

team's effort.

"It was our best 60 minutes from a system point of view and how

we want to play going forward," DeBoer said. "There are not

many games when a coach can feel good about every component of

the game, but tonight, I felt that way."

Rookie Michael Frolik and Richard Zednik also tallied, Cory

Stillman collected three assists and Nathan Horton added two for

Florida, which improved to 7-1-3 in January.

"It's just unbelievable to be a part of this," Frolik said.

"I'm feeling more comfortable out there all the time. It's

really nice to be contributing to what's going on with this team

right now."

Robert Lang scored the lone goal for Montreal, which has dropped

four straight.

"Bad penalties, bad goals at the start. It's happened all too

often recently," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "When we

face adversity, as we have lately, we seem to go backwards."

The Panthers capitalized on two of three power-play chances in

the first period to move ahead.

Just 21 seconds after Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges was called

for roughing, Bouwmeester netted his 11th goal by burying the

rebound of a shot by Weiss at 3:54 of the opening session. It

was Bouwmeester's eighth point in his last nine games.

"It's just a great feeling to come out of the (All-Star) break

and beat two teams that are ahead of us in the standings,"

Bouwmeester said of following up Tuesday's win over Philadelphia

with this one. "It says a lot about our character."

Weiss again was tenacious around the crease and managed to poke

the puck under sprawling All-Star goaltender Carey Price during

a flurry in front with 4:24 left in the period to double the

lead.

Price allowed five goals for the second straight outing and has

yet to regain his form after missing eight contests with a

sprained right ankle.

"I think we all didn't play our best," Price said. "We've got

to pull together. We can't start pointing fingers now or we'll

never dig ourselves out of the hole."

"We just haven't been able to follow through on anything,"

Carbonneau said. "I thought we came in ready to play, but the

result wasn't there."

Florida got into penalty trouble of its own late in the period

as Montreal entered the second with a two-man advantage.

The Panthers successfully killed the first penalty, but the

Canadiens' persistence in the offensive zone paid off as Lang

drilled a one-timer past netminder Tomas Vokoun 53 seconds into

the session for a power-play goal, his 17th tally of the season.

With 5:16 remaining in the middle period, Zednik managed to gain

control of the puck while falling to the ice and knock it past

Price to give Florida a 3-1 cushion. Dvorak netted his eighth

of the season on a penalty shot with 8:47 to go in the third,

and Frolik capped the scoring less than three minutes later with

his 11th tally.

Vokoun made 35 saves in improving to 6-1-2 in his last nine

games.

"We are playing with a lot of confidence right now," Vokoun

said. "(Philadelphia and Montreal) are two very good teams that

play smart hockey, and for us to get four points is a good

feeling."

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