The Panthers (35-27-7) have played 11 of their last 12 games at home, going 9-2-0 at BB&T Center during a stretch that saw the team win a franchise-record eight straight games. Florida has lost three straight games on the road, but is 4-2-1 overall away from home since Jan. 30.
"We've been at home for a while and it's time to get on the road and bring that road mentality," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said after Monday's morning skate. "A lot of times at home you get comfortable, you get your matchups and guys get into a daily routine. It's good to throw a little bit of a wrinkle in here and get on the road. We know this was coming. Our guys are prepared for it. We've been a good road team in the second half [of the season]."
The Panthers are coming off a 4-2 loss to Edmonton on Saturday afternoon in which they lost for the first time this season when leading after two periods. A key reason for that defeat was the team's inability to convert on any of its six power-play opportunities, which Boughner said is likely much more of an anomaly than the start of a trend.
Since Feb. 5, Florida's power play ranks third in the NHL, going 17-for-60 with (28.3 percent) with the man advantage. The team's 17 power play goals during that span are the most in the league, with Vincent Trocheck notching a goal with the extra attacker a team-leading six times.
"A good teaching tool," Boughner said of the loss. "Our power play was trying to do too much instead of simplifying it. When you get six [opportunities], you should score one. That was the difference. We'll re-focus here today against Montreal."
With backup James Reimer slated to start Tuesday in Ottawa, Roberto Luongo is expected to get the nod in net for the Panthers. Luongo, 38, is 8-3-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and one shutout over his last 12 starts, but is coming off a performance he'd like to forget against the Oilers.
Although he stopped 32 of 35 shots, two unlucky goals left Luongo heaping blame on himself - unnecessarily, according to Boughner -- after the loss to Edmonton saying, "Needless to say, I don't feel too good about myself after tonight. I feel like I cost the team a win here."
Still, the Panthers are in prime position to catch a playoff spot if they can get back on track.
With 13 games left to play, Florida trails New Jersey by five points for the second wild card spot Columbus by six points for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. In essence, the Panthers also still control their own destiny, as they have three games in hand on both clubs.
"We tried to take care of business as best we could at home, and I think we did that for the most part," Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie said. "Obviously, we would have liked to pick up two points in the last game, but we knew it wasn't going to be easy coming down the stretch. Every game here counts. Another big one tonight."
The Canadiens (26-34-12) have dropped seven of their last eight games, including a 4-0 loss in Toronto on Saturday, and will be without three of their top players due to injuries in this contest: forward Max Pacioretty (lower body), defenseman Shea Weber (foot) and goaltender Carey Price (upper body).
In the absence of several stars, Montreal boasts the league's 29th-ranked offense (2.50 goals per game) and has been shut out twice in its past six games. That bodes well for Florida's defense, which kept the Canadiens off the scoresheet in a 5-0 win at BB&T Center on March 8.
In their final meeting of the season, however, the Panthers aren't taking Montreal lightly.
"They're a fast, skilled team," MacKenzie said. "I think when they're at home they certainly have the support of the fans and this is a tough arena to win in. We're going to need our best."
- Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad enters Monday's tilt in Montreal with 13 points (6-7-13) over his last 12 games. The 25-year old is one point away from tying his career-high for points (43, 2014-15) and four assists away from reaching his first 30-assist season.
- Evgenii Dadonov leads the Panthers in multi-goal games (5) and game-winning goals (5). The 29-year-old winger has notched 25 points (12- 13-25) over in 22 games since the All-Star break and needs just four more points to hit the 60-point plateau this season.
- Mike Matheson has scored eight of his career-high 10 goals on the road this season, tying him for second among NHL defensemen in road goals. The 24-year-old blueliner leads the Panthers in blocked shots (111), while his 58 takeaways rank him fourth among NHL defensemen.
- Panthers Captain Derek MacKenzie is expected to play in his 600th NHL game on Monday.
Evgenii Dadonov - Aleksander Barkov - Nick Bjugstad
Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Denis Malgin
Maxim Mamin - Jared McCann - Frank Vatrano
Jamie McGinn - Derek MacKenzie - Colton Sceviour
Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Mark Pysyk
MacKenzie Weegar - Alexander Petrovic
Scratches: Connor Brickley, Micheal Haley, Radim Vrbata, Ian McCoshen
- March 10: F Frank Vatrano activated from IR
- Feb. 14: G Roberto Luongo activated from IR
- Feb. 14: G Harri Sateri loaned to Springfield (AHL)
HOW TO WATCH
When: Monday, March 19, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Bell Centre - Montreal, QC
TV coverage: FOX Sports Florida (check local listings)
Florida Panthers Radio Network Presented by HARD Lifestyle Beverages: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)
Where to stream it: FOX Sports GO and NHL.TV (outside state of Florida)