SUNRISE, Fla. -- Montreal Canadiens backup goalie Dustin Tokarski got his first victory in exactly two months, making 41 saves, including 21 in the third period, when the Canadiens defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 at BB&T Center on Tuesday.
"He's a kid who likes to compete," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "And the way that he played, Tokarski deserved the win tonight. He was just phenomenal. He made key save after key save, especially in the third period."
Tokarski had lost four decisions (0-2-2) since a 6-4 victory against the New York Islanders on Jan. 17. He got his first start in six games Tuesday because the Canadiens (44-19-7) played Monday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, with Carey Price in goal.
"It's my job to give the team a chance to win, whether it's 15 shots or 50 shots," Tokarski said. "The guys rallied hard. The only thing that matters is the two points."
All the scoring took place in the second period, with Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban breaking a 2-2 tie at 15:26 when he took a pass from Brandon Prust inside the top of the right circle and beat goalie Dan Ellis with a low wrist shot to the stick side.
The Panthers had the first 15 shots on goal in the third period and a 21-4 advantage in the period but could not solve Tokarski.
"It seemed like we threw everything at them," said forward Brandon Pirri, who scored the second Florida goal, his 13th in 18 games. "You have to give [Tokarski] credit; he made some saves. We can't leave it until the third [period]."
The Canadiens regained possession of first place in the Atlantic Division with 95 points, two more than the Lightning, who defeated them 4-2 on Monday. Each team has played 71 games.
"We played [Monday], a really emotional game," Therrien said. "I could tell in the third period that the energy level was pretty low. And when the energy is not quite there, the execution is not there. But [the Panthers] played really well, they pressed really hard, they were tough to play against. But Tokarski was phenomenal."
Aleksander Barkov scored for the Panthers (31-25-14), who have lost consecutive games since matching their season high three-game winning streak.
Luongo took part in the morning skate Tuesday for the first time since sustaining a shoulder injury in a 3-2 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs March 3.
The Panthers fell seven points behind the Boston Bruins, who lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Buffalo Sabres, for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Panthers fell three points behind the Ottawa Senators, 2-1 overtime winners against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"We're losing opportunities to get points, but you can't worry about that," Ellis said. "You have to move on to the next one and get ready for [the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday] because things can change in a matter of weeks. People can go on slumps or they can go on streaks. You just have to hope that we hit that streak and get some help from other places."
Montreal won for the second time in three games against Florida this season, with the road team winning each game. The Panthers and Canadiens play each other two more times, March 28 at Montreal and April 5 at Florida.
The Canadiens have won five of their past six games at BB&T Center.
Montreal received offense from its third and fourth lines.
"Those guys were great," Therrien said. "We need contributions from different players. I thought Brandon Prust made some quality plays to get two goals from it. I thought De La Rose was really good. He was really dependable on the ice. Lars Eller competed really hard. It's nice to see some contributions from different players."
Barkov opened the scoring at 4:20 of the second period. After Jonathan Huberdeau's pass across the front of the net was deflected, Barkov lifted the stick of defenseman Jeff Petry before spinning around and putting a shot between the legs of Tokarski.
Emelin, who returned Monday after missing 12 games with an upper-body injury, tied the score 1:24 later with a wrist shot from the point through traffic.
De La Rose gave the Canadiens the lead at 8:23 of the second period with their sixth shorthanded goal of the season. Prust chased down a clear from the defensive zone and came in alone with De La Rose, who one-timed a pass across the ice into an open net.
"I don't know where their [defense] was there; 2-on-0 on a PK is pretty rare," De La Rose said.
Pirri tied it 2-2 at 13:25 when his wrist shot from inside the right circle bounced in off the far post.
The Panthers took 24 more shots on goal, including three in the final 6:35 of the second period, without getting a puck past Tokarski.
"We wanted to get a win for him big time," Prust said. "We haven't played that great in front of him the last few starts he's had. We wanted to make sure we played good in front of him, and we did for the most part. He held the fort when he needed to."