Canadiens Control Panthers – Niemi Makes 52 Saves

MONTREAL — Antti Niemi made a career-high 52 saves as the Montreal Canadiens extended their win streak to three games with a 5-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Shea Weber, Phillip Danault, Max Domi, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Brendan Gallagher, into the empty net, scored for Montreal (26-17-5) in the second half of back-to-back games. The Canadiens were coming off a 3-2 overtime victory in Boston on Monday.

Mike Hoffman scored in the first period for the Panthers (17-20-8), who have dropped seven consecutive games, their longest skid of the season. Florida’s last victory was on Dec. 31 against the Detroit Red Wings.

Roberto Luongo was expected to start between the pipes for Florida but James Reimer got the nod instead in a game-time decision. Reimer stopped 23-of-28 shots in defeat.

The Panthers outshot the Canadiens 53-28. Florida had 21 shots in the third period alone.

Niemi was solid throughout the evening as he beat his personal 48-save record set on Mar. 3, 2017 in a 2-1 loss to the Bruins. The Canadiens backup goalie, who’s won his last three starts, improved to 8-4-1 on the season.

Evgenii Dadonov, Antti Niemi, Victor Mete
Florida Panthers Evgenii Dadonov is stopped on a wraparound by Montreal Canadiens Antti Niemi as Victor Mete looks on. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

With Montreal already leading 2-1 in the second period, it looked like Domi snapped his 17-game goalless drought when he scooped the puck across the goal-line following a scramble in the crease, but the goal was overturned for goaltender interference.

Domi wouldn’t be denied though, as he scored his 15th of the season at 16:53 for his first goal since Dec. 9, 2018.

Hoffman got the visitors on the board when he scored a highlight-reel, one-handed goal on a breakaway at 14:11 of the first period, following a bad giveaway by Canadiens centre Michael Chaput.

Montreal’s league-worst power play was successful in the second period when Weber fired a slapshot past Reimer just 29 seconds after the restart to make it 1-1.

The goal was the Habs’ first at home with the man advantage since Dec. 1. Claude Julien’s men had not scored on their previous 27 power-play opportunities at Bell Centre.

Danault gave the Canadiens a 2-1 lead at 10:44 of the second, a no-look backhand shot after Weber’s shot bounced off the end boards behind Reimer.

After Domi made it 3-1, Kotkaniemi added another for Montreal with 5:38 left in the third period before Gallagher scored into the empty net with 1:36 remaining on the clock.

Notes: Jordie Benn earned his 100th NHL point in his 439th game.

Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press