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Galchenyuk, Bourque seal Habs' OT win over Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE. Fla. -- Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien wanted to give prized rookie Alex Galchenyuk some overtime experience Thursday night. Galchenyuk rewarded him by helping produce the only goal of the game.

Galchenyuk’s strong individual effort set up Rene Bourque’s goal 2:50 into overtime as the Canadiens defeated the Florida Panthers 1-0 at BB&T Center.

"That's part of the growth process, to learn to play 4-on-4 in overtime," Therrien said. "You have to make good decisions with the puck and he definitely learned well."

Galchenyuk skated up ice 2-on-2 and kept battling after Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov poked the puck off his stick, eventually sending a rolling puck across the crease.

It found its way to the left of the net to Bourque, who batted it out of midair past goalie Jose Theodore.

"I wanted to create a chance offensively," Galchenyuk said. "It was a huge game for us. I entered the zone and I saw that [Bourque] was driving to the net very hard. I was trying to get it to him all the time. The puck was bouncing, somehow I got it to him. He made an unbelievable play; his coordination was good."

With the assist, Galchenyuk, who turned 19 two days ago, snapped a five-game pointless streak after he had a goal and six assists in his first seven NHL games.

Galchenyuk said he appreciated the confidence Therrien showed by putting him on the ice in overtime.

"Obviously it’s nice to be out there," he said. "If you play in overtime, every time you’re on the ice you have a chance to make a play and win the game."

Montreal goalie Carey Price made 26 saves for his first shutout of the season, the 17th of his career. Two have come against Florida.

Price wasn’t tested often in the first two periods, but he made several big saves during a two-minute stretch in the third.

"The guys played very well in front of me," Price said. "We limited their scoring chances all game. They only got a couple of really good quality chances all game. That speaks of the work ethic of the guys in front of me."

In winning their second consecutive game, the Canadiens improved to 5-0-0 against Southeast Division teams this season.

Montreal is 2-0-0 against Florida, with a 4-1 victory at Bell Centre on Jan. 22.

The victory, coming two days after the Canadiens won at the Tampa Bay Lightning, helped Montreal jump past the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators into fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

"Listen, it’s not easy picking up four points when you come here (to Florida) and we picked up four points," Therrien said. "So mission accomplished in that vein."

Theodore, who came in with a 2-2-1 record, 4.62 goals-against average and .861 save percentage in six career games against his former team, made 31 saves for the Panthers.

It was a good bounce-back effort from Theodore, who was pulled midway through the third period of Saturday’s 5-0 loss at the Washington Capitals in his prior start.

"When you’re dealing with a professional like Jose, you know he’s waiting for that next opportunity," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "I thought he was very solid tonight. ... Goaltending will be the story tomorrow. Goaltending was great at both ends."

This was the third time the teams played a 1-0 game decided in overtime. The Canadiens have won all three, also victorious in 2001 and 2006.

"We played a good team game," Therrien said. "We were disciplined. We addressed that today with the players and the players responded.

"Throughout the game, we were imposing the rhythm and we were playing well defensively. We were really tough to play against. We were really taking time and space away from the Panthers. We had some good scoring chances. Jose Theodore was really good. He gave his team a chance to stay in the game. When you look at it, it's a nice team win."

The Panthers have lost three in a row after going 3-0-1 in their previous four games. The past two losses have come in overtime, Thursday’s preceded by a 6-5 setback against Washington on Tuesday.

"It’s frustrating anytime you lose in overtime," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We’re just trying to get some wins here and one point is not going to do it. We just have to pick up and keep going and be ready."

The teams played a tight game through the first two periods, with few good scoring chances on either side, before play opened up a bit in the third.

Five minutes into the third, Theodore robbed P.K. Subban with a pad save after Subban got around a couple of Florida players with some nifty stick handling.

Midway through, Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau found himself alone on Price, who made the save. Huberdeau’s shot was one of five in a one-minute span for the Panthers.

"They came out hard at the beginning of that third period," Price said. "We just had to weather the storm. It was a pretty quiet game out there all game. It was pretty defensive. We were just lucky to get that one at the end."

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