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Canadiens 3, Panthers 1

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MONTREAL (AP) -Francis Bouillon delivered timely and unexpected offense in his season debut for the streaking Montreal Canadiens.

Bouillon scored 10:53 into the third period and Montreal extended its winning streak to five games with a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

Sidelined by a leg injury in the Canadiens' first five games of the season, Bouillon restored Montreal's one-goal lead when he drove a slap shot from the left point past Tomas Vokoun for an unassisted goal.

"Goals like that don't come around very often for me," said Bouillon, who scored twice in 44 games last season.

Saku Koivu recorded his 600th career point when he scored for a third straight game in the second period. Tomas Plekanec scored into an empty net with 21.1 seconds remaining.

Jaroslav Halak stopped 35 shots in his second start of the season, losing a shutout bid on Keith Ballard's tying goal 7:20 into the third. The 23-year-old Slovak allowed one goal in a 6-1 win in Toronto on Oct. 11 that launched the Canadiens' current streak.

"I think we got outplayed by the opponent tonight, there's no doubt about that, and without his performance, without his great game, it would have been a really long night for us," Koivu said.

Ballard scored his first goal of the season for Florida, which fell to 2-3-0 in its first regulation loss at the Bell Centre in more than five years. The Panthers entered with five wins, one tie, and three non-regulation losses in Montreal since Jan. 28, 2003.

"We know we can play with anybody," said Vokoun, who made 31 saves and acknowledged that he was screened on the winning goal and never saw Markov's shot. "We could have won this game - they won it, but it was up for grabs until late in the third, and sometimes that's just the way it goes. Everybody played great tonight, from our part. It's tough to lose but we played well, and if we play like this, we're going to win most of the games."

Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov extended his assists and points streaks to six games when he set up Koivu's goal during 4-on-4 play in the second.

Koivu scored his third goal of the season into a wide-open net 2:07 into the middle period after Markov made a no-look back pass into the slot after he fanned on a shot from the left side.

"Those broken plays are tough to defend," said Vokoun, who expected Markov to make his shot.

Markov himself couldn't acknowledge whether he knew that Koivu was in position to receive his blind feed.

"It's tough to say," Markov said. "I knew he was behind and I just tried to make the pass."

Markov, who has yet to score this season, has nine assists over the course of his streak and is tied with Koivu for the team lead in scoring.

"He just showed what kind of vision he has, and when you play with him, you have to expect a pass any time, but I was surprised, and I think everybody in this building was a bit surprised," Koivu said.

As part of their centennial season celebrations, the Canadiens wore their white uniforms as they did for home games from 1970-71 to 2002-03.

Sergei Kostitsyn played left wing on a line with Alex Kovalev and Plekanec in place of his brother, Andrei, who suffered a concussion in Saturday's 4-1 win over Phoenix.

Linesman Greg Devorski left the game midway through the second period. He was treated for a lacerated ankle and returned for the beginning of the third period.

"He gets the purple heart tonight," referee Kerry Fraser said.

Notes: Despite the loss, the Panthers remain the only one of the NHL's 29 existing teams with a winning record overall against Montreal. Florida has 25 wins, 17 losses, six ties and five non-regulation losses against the Canadiens since joining the league in 1993-94. ... Bouillon, a defenseman, began the game as a left wing on Montreal's fourth line. He shifted to his regular position in the second period.

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