Except for the warm weather, the Montreal Canadiens
could have been back in the Bell Centre.
Carey Price made 30 saves Thursday night as the Canadiens delighted a heavily pro-Habs crowd at the BankAtlantic Center by blanking the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday.
Andrei Kostitsyn and Lars Eller each had a goal and an assist as Montreal solidified its hold on sixth place in the Eastern Conference
"It was good," Price said. "I was feeling pretty good out there tonight and our team was snapping it around. I thought our team was playing good two-way hockey."
The shutout, the 11th of his career, moved him into a tie with Boston's Tim Thomas for second in the League, one behind Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. The seven shutouts are the most by a Montreal goalie since Jose Theodore had seven in 2001-02.
"Price made some big saves at key times when the game was still on the line," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "At the end of the second period on their power play he made a big save. He's played with a lot of confidence. He's been a big part of our success."
The pro-Canadiens crowd serenaded him with chants of "Ca-rey! Ca-rey!" after Price stopped Stephen Weiss on a breakaway late in the second period, and did it again in the third period after a couple of saves during a goalmouth scramble.
"It's definitely odd, but there's a lot of snowbirds down here," Price said. "It's always fun to play down here. It's almost like playing at home."
Price reached the 30-win mark for the first time in his four NHL seasons.
"It got a little hairy a couple times but our guys did a great job of coming back. A few times I was down and out but our guys were right there blocking shots and helping me out," Price said. "I thought we looked pretty solid. Our team was snapping it around and I thought we were playing good two-way hockey. I think everyone was feeling pretty good out there tonight."
Hal Gill and David Desharnais also scored for the Canadiens, who have won four of their last five. Travis Moen and James Wisniewski each had a pair of assists.
The goal was Gill's first in 100 games, dating to Dec. 31, 2009, when he scored in the same building.
"Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while," joked Gill, who also finished plus-3. "We were rolling tonight. We had a lot of guys going and everyone was chipping in and doing the little things right -- and it made a big difference.
The Panthers, who are headed for a record 10th consecutive non-playoff season, got behind early and never threatened. Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun lasted only 8:54 before he was pulled after giving up two goals on three shots. Backup Scott Clemmensen made 26 saves.
"I don't blame him on the goals," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said of Vokoun. "We needed to do something different. It was two goals on three shots. I'm not sure he saw either of them. We had to make a change. We're not going to score more than two or three goals. If we're down 2-0 early, we've got to do something to shut the door."
The Panthers, who dealt four veterans at the trading deadline, are 5-11-4 in their last 20 games and have fallen to 13th in the East. Florida has scored just five non-shootout goals in its last six games and was shut out for the fourth time this season.
"It's obviously disappointing to be losing the way we are lately," Clemmensen said. "You just keep trying, going out there and doing your best. You can't do anything more than that. We were so close all season long, we still are, but if we keep losing we'll keep slipping further and further behind. We've got to get this thing going in the other direction."
Kostitsyn, whose goal chased Vokoun, extended his points streak to five games after he went nine games without a point.
Kostitsyn set up Gill's goal 5:02 into the game with a nice diagonal cross-ice pass to the point. Gill beat Vokoun with a slap shot through traffic. Kostitsyn ended Vokoun's evening with a slap shot from the top of the circle that bounced in off the far post.
"We were overmatched tonight," DeBoer said. "Coming into a game like this with the lineup we've got you've got to have everything go right and it didn't go right. They got a couple bounces early."
Desharnais scored at 4:59 of the second period on a strange goal. After Benoit Pouliot intercepted the puck near the Florida blue line, his pass went off a stick and high into the air. Desharnais gloved the puck and then fired a soft backhander while being taken down by defenseman Keaton Ellerby. The puck somehow managed to get past Clemmensen.
Eller closed out the scoring at 3:21 of the third when he tipped in Moen's backhand pass from the corner.
"We're together, all 60 minutes and we took a lot less penalties than we've done the last four, five games," Eller said. "That makes it easier for us. Carey was great again in the nets. A good team effort all the way around."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report