SUNRISE, Fla. — Montreal native Roberto Luongo made 40 saves to lead the Florida Panthers to a 5-0 win over the Canadiens Thursday night at the BB&T Center. It was Luongo’s second shutout of the season and the 75th of his career. It was the 10th time the Canadiens have been shut out this season and that’s a team record.
Huberdeau powers up: The Panthers scored the only goal in the first period when St-Jérôme native Jonathan Huberdeau scored a power-play goal at 16:16. The Canadiens had the first power-play of the game, but it was cut short when Montreal was caught with too many men on the ice. That gave Florida the advantage for 1:20 and Huberdeau connected from the slot after a backhand pass from the corner by Vincent Trochek. It was Huberdeau’s 21st goal of the season. The Canadiens thought that a backhander from Nicolas Deslauriers was a goal at 9:28, but replays didn’t offer conclusive evidence the puck crossed the goal line.
Quick turnaround: The Panthers took a 2-0 lead at 1:41 of the second period after Luongo stopped Jonathan Drouin on a 2-on-1 break and then made a save off the rebound attempt by Alex Galchenyuk. The Panthers came back on the same shift and Nick Bjugstad scored his 15th goal of the season, going in alone and scoring on a backhander after Aleksander Barkov threaded a pass through two defenders. Florida went ahead 3-0 at 2:44 when Derek MacKenzie cut off Byron Froese’s attempt to rim the puck behind the net and he set up Micheal Haley in the slot.
Challenge saves shutout: Evgenii Dadonov gave the Panthers a 4-0 lead at 1:23 of the third period. Paul Byron finally beat Luongo at 3:30, but Florida coach Bob Boughner challenged the call and his appeal was successful when the replay showed that Jacob de la Rose was guilty of interfering with Luongo before the puck went in the net. Trochek completed the rout with a short-handed goal at 14:56.
Danault has pain in the neck: The Canadiens, who are already short-handed up the middle, didn’t have centre Phillip Danault in the lineup. He woke up Tuesday with a stiff neck and a headache and, given his recent problems with a concussion, the Canadiens decided not to dress him. Charles Hudon, who has been used at centre this season, missed his fourth consecutive game with a hand injury that makes it difficult to shoot.
Plenty of good seats available: When the Canadiens were here on Dec. 30, the contest produced one of only three sold-out games this season at the BB&T Center with 18,013 paying customers. But this game was far from a sellout, with entire rows of empty seats in the lower bowl and in the upper deck, which remains closed for most regular-season games. The Panthers, who also had sellouts for games against the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, rank 28th in the NHL in attendance with an average of 13,730 fans a game.
End of the road coming: The Canadiens are in Tampa to play the Lightning in an afternoon game Saturday (1 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN-690 Radio) and they wrap up their six-game road trip with a visit to Columbus on Monday. They return to the Bell Centre on Tuesday to face Alex Radulov and the Dallas Stars.