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Canadiens-Panthers Preview @NHL

A five-day layoff wasn't enough to slow down the Montreal Canadiens, who've earned points in their last four games.

An even shorter break, however, seems to have stalled the Florida Panthers.

The Panthers will try to avoid a third straight loss overall and a fourth straight defeat to the Canadiens on Monday, when Montreal continues a four-game road trip in South Florida.

The Canadiens (19-9-6) didn't play between Dec. 21 and Saturday, but they still moved to 3-0-1 in their last four games with a 3-2 win at Pittsburgh, opening their trip with a victory despite getting outshot 34-19.

Carey Price made 32 saves and Andrei Kostitsyn notched his first career hat, scoring the game-winner unassisted 2:21 into the third period. Kostitsyn had scored just six goals this season coming into the game.

"We want (Kostitsyn) to shoot," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. "I think he has the best shot on our club. He should be ready to shoot from everywhere, and tonight that's all he did. He got good shots right on the net and turned them into goals."

Price, meanwhile, has been denying goals recently, going 10 straight starts without a regulation loss. He's 6-0-4 with a 2.14 goals-against average over that span, and has also won his last three road starts.

"The guys did a pretty good job of keeping all of the rebounds out of their reach," Price said Saturday. "That makes a heck of a difference for me."

Before Saturday, the Canadiens had played just one road game in the month of December, but they'll also visit Tampa Bay and New Jersey on their current trip after facing the Panthers. They started the season 4-0-1 on the road, but have since gone 4-5-1.

Florida had been playing well at home, entering a two-day layoff over Christmas with back-to-back 3-0 wins over Colorado and Nashville on Dec. 21 and 23.

But the Panthers (16-14-5) were less than impressive this weekend, earning just one point from a home-and-home series with lowly Tampa Bay after a 6-4 loss at the St. Pete Times Forum on Saturday.

"It's very disappointing because we were playing well before the (Christmas) break," Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe said. "We'll regroup, and get back on the horse."

They were outshot by a combined 77-57 in the two games, and goalie Tomas Vokoun struggled. Vokoun entered on a 131-minute shutout streak, but was pulled through two periods of Florida's 4-3 shootout loss Friday before allowing all of the Lightning's goals 24 hours later.

Backup Craig Anderson, who is fourth in the NHL with a 2.09 GAA this season, will start Monday.

"We've sputtered a bit here as a team, and we need a shot in the arm and something to turn this around," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "Hopefully Craig's the answer."

It will likely help to be at the BankAtlantic Center, where the Panthers are 8-4-3 overall and 4-1-3 in their last eight. But it may be difficult to bounce back against Montreal, which has outscored Florida 10-3 in three straight wins in the series.

Two of those came in Sunrise, Fla., with the third a 3-1 victory in Montreal on Oct. 20. Backup Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves for the Canadiens in that game.

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