Canadiens beat Panthers for fifth straight win | Saturday, 03.29.2014 / 11:41 PM

The Montreal Canadiens' top line and their gold medal-winning goaltender were too much for the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.

Mac Pacioretty scored twice, and Thomas Vanek and David Desharnais each had a goal and an assist to lead the surging Canadiens to a 4-1 victory at BB&T Center. It was Montreal's fifth consecutive victory and eighth in nine games.

"They played really well again tonight," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "The chemistry is there; they are having a lot of fun playing together and it worked out again tonight."

Especially for Pacioretty, who scored for the first time in 17 career games against the Panthers.

"It's a good feeling. I haven't been able to score against this team so it's nice to come into this building a put a few on the board," Pacioretty said.

Carey Price made 36 saves for his fourth win in a row. Price did his best work in the final 20 minutes, when the Panthers outshot the Canadiens 15-3 but couldn't get a puck past him. Desharnais hit the empty net with 23.4 seconds remaining to ice the win.

The Canadiens (43-26-7) maintained their hold on second place in the Atlantic Division, which would give them the home-ice edge in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They lead the Tampa Bay Lightning by one point; the Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in overtime.

"Obviously, we're trying to make a push toward the playoffs. It's all about timing and being able to play well at the right time," Price said.

Brad Boyes had the lone goal and Dan Ellis made 15 saves for the Panthers, who've dropped five of their past six games and are out of the playoff race.

"They capitalized on their chances," Boyes said. "They're a good team. I don't think they played their best, but they found a way to win."

Montreal came out flying, with Pacioretty forcing Ellis to stop him on a breakaway 20 seconds into the game. The Canadiens then killed two penalties against the League's worst power play before taking the lead midway through the period.

Vanek, acquired from the New York Islanders at the NHL Trade Deadline, got his 27th of the season and sixth in 12 games since the deal at 10:47 to open the scoring. Florida defenseman Brian Campbell whiffed on a pass in the neutral zone; Vanek picked up the puck, raced in and fired from the slot. Ellis made the save, but Vanek knocked in the rebound to put Montreal in front.

The Canadiens made it 2-0 at 17:03, one second after a penalty to Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson expired. Before Gudbranson could get back in the play, Pacioretty came backdoor and easily knocked in Alexei Emelin's pass from inside the left circle.

"We need a better start," said Ellis, who made his second straight start in place of injured starter Roberto Luongo.

Florida dominated the first 13-plus minutes of the second period, but Price kept the Panthers off the board with a superb glove stop on Tomas Fleischmann 1:58 and an excellent stop on Scottie Upshall from the high slot 10 minutes later.

"Price was the biggest difference," Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said. "They're a very mature team that capitalizes on their chances."

The Panthers then paid the price for a bad line change, leading to Pacioretty's second of the night at the 14-minute mark. Vanek was left free to carry the puck into the Florida zone. He found Desharnais, who was left alone for a 2-on-1 down low and slid the puck to an unchecked Pacioretty for an easy tap-in. It was Pacioretty's team-high 35th of the season.

Boyes finally got the Panthers on the board at 16:09, finishing a 3-on-2 rush by picking a small opening on the top short-side corner from the right faceoff dot for his 19th of the season, most on the Panthers.

"No finish," Boyes said. "We generated a lot of shots, a lot of chances ... again, a lack of scoring obviously hurt us."

Material from team media was used in this report.

Scoring Summary
1st Period
10:47MTL Thomas Vanek (27) ASST: P.K. Subban (43) 1 - 0 MTL
17:03MTL Max Pacioretty (34) ASST: Alexei Emelin (12), Daniel Briere (12) 2 - 0 MTL
2nd Period
14:00MTL Max Pacioretty (35) ASST: David Desharnais (34), Thomas Vanek (37) 3 - 0 MTL
16:09FLA Brad Boyes (19) ASST: Sean Bergenheim (11), Brian Campbell (27) 3 - 1 MTL
3rd Period
19:36MTL EN - David Desharnais (15) ASST: Max Pacioretty (19), Mike Weaver (9) 4 - 1 MTL
Three Stars of the Game
Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty
G: 2Shots: 5
A: 1Hits: 0
PTS: 3PIM: 0
+/-: 3TOI: 18:59
Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek
G: 1Shots: 4
A: 1Hits: 0
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 3TOI: 19:48
Carey Price
Carey Price
SA: 37TOI: 59:27
GA: 1EV: 26-27
PIM: 0PP: 5-5
SV%: .973SH: 5-5
Penalty Summary
1st Period
00:48MTL Andrei Markov  Interference against  Scottie Upshall
03:48MTL Rene Bourque  Hooking against  Nick Bjugstad
11:08FLA Tomas Fleischmann  Hi-sticking against  Mike Weaver
15:02FLA Erik Gudbranson  Slashing against  Daniel Briere
17:36FLA Krys Barch  Fighting (maj) against  George Parros
17:36MTL George Parros  Fighting (maj) against  Krys Barch
19:39FLA Colby Robak  Holding against  Brian Gionta
2nd Period
11:41MTL Alexei Emelin  Interference against  Jesse Winchester
17:47FLA Brandon Pirri  Hi-sticking against  P.K. Subban
3rd Period
02:42MTL Francis Bouillon  Tripping against  Jimmy Hayes
04:28MTL Ryan White  Roughing against  Jimmy Hayes
04:28FLA Jimmy Hayes  Roughing against  Ryan White
11:19FLA Vincent Trocheck  Tripping against  Francis Bouillon
shots by period
Team Stats
Power Plays0/50/4
Faceoff Wins2427
Blocked Shots125
Penalty Minutes1517
6D. MurrayD0000018:02
11B. GallagherR0001012:21
15G. ParrosR000156:31
17R. BourqueR0000211:54
20T. VanekL1134019:48
21B. GiontaR0000015:23
27A. GalchenyukC0000013:48
43M. WeaverD0110019:04
48D. BriereC0113015:27
49M. BournivalL0000011:35
51D. DesharnaisC1121019:20
53R. WhiteC0002211:51
55F. BouillonD0030214:32
67M. PaciorettyL2135018:59
74A. EmelinD0110220:50
76P. SubbanD0110022:46
79A. MarkovD0002225:27
81L. EllerC0000014:55
31C. Price3637.97359:27
4D. OlsenD00-12014:22
7D. KulikovD00-15027:28
12J. HayesR0001213:07
14T. FleischmannL00-12215:21
17J. WinchesterC00-13011:41
19S. UpshallR00-14018:07
20S. BergenheimL0105018:03
21K. BarchR000054:26
23S. GomezC00-11015:49
24B. BoyesR1003019:27
27N. BjugstadC0002017:35
42Q. HowdenC00-12012:09
44E. GudbransonD00-21218:26
47C. RobakD0000214:48
51B. CampbellD01-22023:58
55E. JovanovskiD00-11017:22
67V. TrocheckC00-21217:40
73B. PirriC00-22211:21
39D. Ellis1518.83358:50