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Barkov, Panthers top Canadiens for seventh in row

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Aleksander Barkov helped the Florida Panthers wrap up the best month in their history with another victory.

Barkov had two goals and an assist when the Panthers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 at BB&T Center on Tuesday to match their record for consecutive wins and move into first place in the Atlantic Division.

It's the fourth time Florida (21-12-4) has won seven games in a row, the first since March 2008.

The Panthers went 11-3-0 in December, setting their record for most points in a month (22). They had twice finished a month with 21 points, the previous time in March 2006.

"It's a lot of fun,"���Barkov said. "We're pretty confident. We know how to play the game and how to win the game."

Barkov also had two goals in Florida's previous game, a 3-2 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

The line of Barkov, Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau combined for six points against Montreal.

"(We) play to our strength,"���Jagr said. "We're all strong enough to play 1-on-1. They've got the speed, I think I've got the strength. We are close to each other and we work together. Sooner or later, somebody will have a chance; it doesn't matter who."

Jagr broke a 1-1 tie at 1:16 of the second period with the 733rd goal of his NHL career, moving him within eight of Brett Hull for third place on the League's all-time list.

Huberdeau, whose 15-year-old sister Josiane sang Canada's national anthem before the game, had two assists.

Roberto Luongo made 27 saves for the Panthers, who haven't lost since Dec 12.

"I thought the boys played a strong game, one of their best of the year,"���Luongo said. "As far as structure, we really didn't have any breakdowns at all. It was a great game for our team, especially for what was at stake."

Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal, which lost for the seventh time in eight games. Montreal (21-15-3)���ended a six-game losing streak Monday with a 4-3 shootout victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Canadiens were playing their third game in four nights, but Pacioretty said he wouldn't use that as an excuse.

"We should have a lot of energy coming off a win like we did last night and we did have a little bit of energy in the first, but too many Grade A chances and that team is really hot right now, especially their top line,"���Pacioretty said. "They're feeling good about their offense. It seems like they were executing on every play. We've got to take a page out of that book and try and do what they did a bit and make sure (if) the easy play is there, bear down and make it and do that over and over again throughout 60 minutes, and (we)���should have a better result."

Ben Scrivens, making his first start of the season after being acquired Monday in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers, made 26 saves.

Scrivens made several spectacular saves in his first game in a Canadiens uniform, particularly in the first period.

"I feel like I���can play at this level,"���Scrivens said. "Obviously, things didn't work out perfectly in Edmonton, but it's a business, first and foremost. I'm happy to be here in Montreal and try to give the team a chance to win whenever the coach says I'm going that night. Personally, it's a good challenge, and I���think I'm ready. I���thought I played pretty well tonight and hopefully I can build off it going forward."

Barkov's three points gave him 10 in the past seven games.

Barkov tied the score at 1-1 at 16:28 of the first period with one second left on a Florida power play. He beat Scrivens with a one-timer inside the red dot with Jagr screening the Montreal goalie.

"Scrivens came in and played a great first game in the NHL this year,"���������Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We had two or three great chances on the first couple of shifts. He made some big saves, and they capitalized on the power play. I thought the big point for us was when we scored on the power play late in the first period."

Barkov scored at 8:53 of the third period to make it 3-1. He got the puck next to the net after Erik Gudbranson's pass to Huberdeau went just beyond his reach, and then deked Scrivens to his backhand.

Pacioretty opened the scoring at 12:39 of the first period with a power-play goal. After P.K. Subban's cross-ice pass was deflected by a Florida player, Pacioretty picked up the loose puck in the slot, made a quick move to his forehand and took a wrist shot high to the glove side.

Jagr broke the tie after taking a cross-ice pass from Huberdeau, making a quick deke to his forehand and then flipping a short shot over Scrivens' left shoulder.

"They were outstanding,"���������Gallant said of Florida's top line. "They keep doing it and getting scoring chances every night. They're working hard and their chemistry is unbelievable."

Center Tomas Plekanec played his 800th game for the Canadiens.

The Panthers have won the first four games of a six-game homestand that ends this weekend with games against the New York Rangers on Saturday and the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.

Montreal continues its season-high eight-game road trip Friday against the Boston Bruins in the 2016 Bridgestone NHL���������Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium (1 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN).

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