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game recap

Canadiens clinch first in Atlantic Division with win

Defeat Panthers for fifth consecutive victory

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Montreal Canadiens clinched first place in the Atlantic Division when they defeated the Florida Panthers 4-1 at BB&T Center on Monday.

Artturi Lehkonen scored twice in the third period and had an assist to help the Canadiens (46-24-9) to their second division title in three seasons. Andrew Shaw and Alexander Radulov each scored for Montreal, which has won five games in a row.

"We're happy with the win," coach Claude Julien said. "We clinched first place, and now it's continuing to try and improve ourselves as a team to make sure we head into the playoffs the right way. We're going to put a lot of emphasis on those things that make a difference in a game and in a series. We're real happy about that. It gives us home-ice advantage for a good portion of the playoffs."


WATCH: All Canadiens vs. Panthers highlights


Charlie Lindgren made 31 saves in the second start of his NHL career, first this season.

"He was very good," Julien said. "In the second period when I thought we struggled, he gave us an opportunity to stay in the game. We found a way in the third period to play better and to win the game for him. I thought he was solid. I really enjoyed the way he played tonight, and it just bodes well for the future of this organization."

Jonathan Marchessault scored for the Panthers (33-35-11), who have lost five in a row. He became the first Florida player to score 30 goals in a season since 2008-09 when David Booth had 31.

"It's an empty feeling," Marchessault said. "If you don't make the playoffs, it's almost for nothing."

Video: MTL@FLA: Marchessault stays patient to pot 30th goal

Reto Berra, making his third consecutive start with Roberto Luongo and James Reimer sidelined by injuries, made 27 saves.

Lehkonen broke a 1-1 tie at 1:25 of the third before making it 3-1 at 16:49 with a slap shot off a rebound. Radulov scored into an empty net at 18:34 to make it 4-1. 

Shaw scored the only goal of the first period at 13:13 after Alex Galchenyuk's pass from behind the net bounced off Berra's stick and into the slot. Shaw beat Berra with a low shot to the stick side. 

Marchessault tied it 1-1 at 8:57 of the second after taking a drop pass from Michael Sgarbossa in the Montreal zone. Marchessault skated in alone on Lindgren and held the puck until the goalie went down before putting it past him.


Goal of the game

Lehkonen scored the game-winning goal when he got to a loose puck above the right circle and shot just under the crossbar. "It was like bury your head on the ground and just rip it as hard as I can," Lehkonen said.

Video: MTL@FLA: Lehkonen roofs a blistering snap shot


Save of the game

After defenseman Nathan Beaulieu blocked Nick Bjugstad's shot from the left faceoff circle, Lindgren slid over to stop Thomas Vanek's backhand at the left post 6:03 into the second period.


Highlight of the game

Lehkonen's second goal came after Paul Byron's breakaway shot hit the end boards. The puck came back in front of the net, and Lehkonen one-timed it past Berra.

Video: MTL@FLA: Lehkonen hammers home his second of the game


Unsung performance of the game

Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov played a Canadiens-high 21:30, was plus-2 and helped kill off a 5-on-3 late in the second period.


They said it

"It's a good feeling knowing that we're rolling right now. We want to keep going and want guys to feel good about their game, and obviously the offense is coming at the right time and hopefully we can maintain that." -- Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty


"The team is playing really well. I think the team is truly on a mission. It's a good bunch in here, and they're dialed in and focused. It made my job pretty easy tonight." -- Canadiens goalie Charlie Lindgren


"Our goalie played really well and we did some good things, but it's the same old stuff when you don't drive the net hard enough and finish chances." -- Panthers coach Tom Rowe


Need to know

The Canadiens played without defenseman Shea Weber, who was sent back to Montreal to have his lower-body injury examined by team doctors. … Florida played without defenseman Aaron Ekblad (neck) and center Aleksander Barkov (upper body). … Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar played 16:45 in his NHL debut. … Florida center Derek MacKenzie was 10-for-12 (83.3 percent) on faceoffs.


What's next

Canadiens: At the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, MSG-B, RDS, NHL.TV)

Panthers: Host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-SW, NHL.TV)


Video: Canadiens clinch first in Atlantic with 4-1 win

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