MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens came within seconds of a shutout, but it was Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun who ended up stealing the game.
Vokoun's 36-save performance, holding Montreal to an early goal by Alex Kovalev, allowed Nathan Horton to tie the game with 11 seconds to go and Jozef Stumpel to win it in a shootout as the Panthers beat the Canadiens 2-1 on Tuesday night.
"Our goalie kept us in it and he gets all the credit," said Stumpel, the only scorer in the shootout, who deked Cristobal Huet to the backhand and slid in the game-winner.
The 3-3-0 Panthers posted a third straight victory while Montreal moved to 2-1-2.
The Canadiens dominated most of the contest, outshooting Florida 37-25, but a gaffe by defenceman Mike Komisarek with 2:14 left in regulation time opened the door.
Komisarek's clearing attempt was stopped along the boards and he was called for slashing Richard Zednik on his way to the net.
Vokoun had been pulled for an extra attacker and Komisarek's penalty had just ended when Cory Murphy made a perfect feed to Horton for a shot into an open side that Huet got only a piece of.
"We had no business getting a penalty at that time - we were in control of the puck," said Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau. "It was a mistake.
"It's frustrating. We played a very good game for nearly 60 minutes."
In the Florida dressing room, there was surprise and relief.
"It was all Voky tonight," said defenceman Mike Van Ryn. "He gave us a chance to win and then stopped them in the shootout.
"We had no business winning that game and we wouldn't have without him."
Until then, Alex Kovalev's goal 2:53 into the game looked like it would hold up as Montreal outskated the Panthers for most of the game.
Kovalev pulled the rebound of Roman Hamrlik's point shot back and lifted it over the fallen Vokoun on a power play for his second goal of the season.
It was Montreal's first goal in regulation time at the Bell Centre against Florida in more than a year. Last season, they were beaten 1-0 and won 1-0 in a shootout against the Panthers.
Montreal outshot Florida 26-13 through the first two periods, but couldn't build on the Kovalev goal as Vokoun made save after save, including five each on Chris Higgins and Andrei Kostitsyn and four on Michael Ryder.
Carbonneau made lineup changes looking for more energy from the Canadiens and looked to have got it, although they were facing a mostly listless Florida side.
Even a tepid second-period fight between Tom Kostopoulos and Noah Welch failed to get much of a rise out of the 21,273 spectators in a game with frequent whistles.
Panthers captain Olli Jokinen, thwarted in a bid to jam the puck under Huet 12 minutes into the third period, remains tied with Scott Mellanby for the team scoring record with 354 career points and one goal behind Mellanby with 156.
It was the first stop on a three-game Canadian tour for the Panthers, who play in Toronto on Thursday night and in Ottawa on Saturday
"We finally got our first road win," said Van Ryn. "It was ugly, but we'll take it.
"We have to be better as a group. No one was good tonight other than Voky."
The Canadiens visit Ottawa on Thursday.
Notes - Steve Begin and Guillaume Latendresse were scratched while Mikhail Grabovski and Garth Murray got back into the lineup for Montreal. . . Defenceman Branislav Mezei sat out for Florida. . . Roman Hamrlik's assist on Kovalev's goal was his first point as a Canadien. . . Florida is the only team with an all-time winning record against Montreal, now (24-16-10).