The Panthers are one of just three NHL franchises with a winning record against the storied Montreal Canadiens.
On Sunday, Florida kept up its winning ways against the visitors from Quebec by scoring three unanswered goals to take a 4-1 victory in front of a capacity crowd at BB&T Center.
Florida is 36-34-6 all-time against the Canadiens and 2-0 against them this season. Buffalo and Columbus are the only other teams with winning records against the 26-time Stanley Cup champs.
“We match up well with them, but we always seem to be desperate when we play them,’’ said Brian Campbell, whose second-period goal gave Florida a 2-1 lead.
“It was a fun night of hockey.’’
Sunday’s win, which felt like a road game with all the snowbird fans in the building, snapped Florida’s three-game losing streak. Both teams played Saturday, with the Canadiens winning in Tampa Bay and Florida losing to the visiting Red Wings.
“We had plenty of chances in the last game ... you can't dwell on that,’’ said Tom Gilbert of Florida’s 4-3 loss to Detroit. “We just had to move forward, give ourselves a good chance to win.’’
The Panthers didn’t waste much time, taking the initial lead with Dmitry Kulikov depositing a slick feed from Tomas Fleischmann past Peter Budaj just 6:10 in.
Montreal tied it in the second, but Scott Clemmensen, making his third consecutive start, didn’t give up anything else.
“The decision was made after Tim went out a little bit and I talked to the trainers,’’ coach Peter Horachek said of Clemmensen starting over Tim Thomas (groin injury). “We wanted to give him more time. I think it was the right decision.’’
With the score tied at 1, Campbell scored at 4:51 of the second with Aleksander Barkov redirecting Gilbert’s shot past Budaj later in the period.
Florida’s 3-1 lead held up throughout the third despite some heavy pressure from the Canadiens as Clemmensen made 10 saves in the period and 21 overall.
Sean Bergenheim ended it with 17 seconds left with an empty-net goal — his eighth marker of the season.
“I think they are a team we match up well against for whatever reason,’’ said Clemmensen, now 8-1 lifetime against the Canadiens. Clemmensen has both of Florida’s wins over Montreal this season.
“I’ve been fortunate to play in these games and get a lot of help. We limited their shots and their scoring chances. It’s no surprise we’ve given up as few goals to them as we have.’’
According to a report by the Detroit Free Press, Thomas will not be among the three goalies representing the United States at the upcoming Olympics.
The Free Press, quoting an anonymous source, said “it looks good’’ that Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard would be the third goalie for Team USA with Buffalo’s Ryan Miller and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick getting the bulk of the work.
A source told the Miami Herald last week that Thomas’ chances to reprise his role as Team USA’s third goalie didn’t look good. Thomas went to the Vancouver Games in 2010.
The Team USA roster is expected to be announced Wednesday at the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Even if they’ve made their decisions, I don’t think they would release it to the guys until Jan. 1,’’ Thomas said Sunday. “I haven’t heard a thing.’’
Thomas has been out since Dec. 12 with a groin injury, so he wasn’t able to fully showcase his game.
“There’s not much I can do about that,’’ said Thomas, a native of Flint, Mich. “There are other guys who are hurt, too. I don’t know if it will impact their decision or not.’’
• The Panthers’ announced attendance of 19,891 surpassed Florida's previous home high of 18,932, set Saturday night against Detroit.