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Jokinen's Hat Trick Powers Cats Past Habs in 5-1 Win

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -Olli Jokinen scored three goals for his second career hat trick and the Florida Panthers broke a four-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.

The Panthers hadn't won since a 2-1 victory over Toronto on Nov. 2. They dropped 11 of 14 overall.

Chris Gratton and Jay Bouwmeester also scored for Florida, which had lost four of five at home since starting the season 4-0 there.

Tomas Plekanec scored for Montreal, which had a two-game winning streak snapped. The Canadiens went 2-2 during a six-day road trip.

Ed Belfour stopped 27 shots for the Panthers.

David Aebischer made 34 saves for Montreal, which missed a chance for its first three-game winning streak of the season.

Jokinen, who hadn't scored since Florida's last victory, gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead 37 seconds into the middle period when his soft wrist shot went through Aebischer s legs.

After Plekanec cut the lead to 2-1, Jokinen restored the Panthers' two-goal margin at 16:53. He took a pass from Nathan Horton across the crease and waited patiently before lifting the puck over Aebischer.

Bouwmeester made it 4-1, scoring a power-play goal at 19:35 of the second period. His wrist shot went through the legs of two Montreal players and beat Aebischer low to the glove side. Belfour was credited with the 33rd assist of his 18-year career.

Jokinen completed the hat trick with 31.5 seconds left in the game when he poked home a loose puck in the crease. His other three-goal game was Nov. 25, 2005, against Pittsburgh.

Gratton scored the only goal of the first period when his quick wrist shot from the circle went over Aebischer's glove.

Montreal outshot Florida 13-7 in the first period, but Belfour came up with several big saves. He was particularly strong during a power play when he stopped five shots.

Notes: Florida LW Martin Gelinas left the game in the second period because of a bruised chest. Gelinas, injured when he was hit by a puck, didn't return. ... Florida C Joe Nieuwendyk returned after missing two games with back problems. ... Florida C Stephen Weiss returned after missing one game because of a knee injury. ... Montreal D Janne Niinimaa, acquired in the offseason in a trade with Dallas for C Mike Ribeiro, was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Niinimaa is a team-worst minus-7.

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