The Montreal Canadiens will have plenty of time for playing on the beach during their nearly weeklong working vacation in Florida. Saturday, however, the Habs had business to attend to.
Montreal won its fifth consecutive game as it continued its playoff push with a 4-1 win over the Panthers at BB&T Center.
The Canadiens, in Fort Lauderdale through Monday before spending a few more days in Tampa, have won eight of the past nine and held tight to their second place spot on Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division.
“We dominated the chances, but they had the lead and maybe they sat back a little,’’ Panthers coach Peter Horachek said.
The Panthers stayed in the game despite being behind for much of it, peppering goalie Carey Price with 37 shots — only Brad Boyes’ wrister finding the back of the net. Montreal led 3-0 just before that goal and added an empty-netter in the final seconds.
“We generated a lot of shots, lot of chances but they sat back in the third and let us come at them,’’ Boyes said.
“We tried to generate things, but the lack of scoring really hurt us.’’
Florida went up against the streaking Canadiens without goalie Roberto Luongo who is out for precautionary reasons.
The Canadiens jumped all over backup Dan Ellis, nearly scoring in the opening seconds.
Montreal’s first goal would wait until Thomas Vanek — a longtime Florida nemesis from his days in Buffalo — scored midway through the period after P.K. Subban chased down a puck Brian Campbell whiffed on.
With 2:57 left in the first, Max Pacioretty got his first of the night by cleaning up a loose puck around the cage a second after Erik Gudbranson’s slashing penalty ended.
“We made some mistakes and they capitalized on them,’’ Horachek said. “They obviously only need a few chances. We need more. The effort was there. We just made mistakes at the wrong time.’’
Montreal made it 3-0 when Pacioretty scored in similar fashion to his first with Florida getting Boyes’ goal — his first in eight games — with 3:51 left in the second.
“There’s no quit in this team, no quit in this locker room,’’ Ellis said. “Guys gave it their all to the final buzzer.’’
Although Luongo said he wouldn’t know whether he would be traveling on Florida’s final road trip of the season, Horachek said it was doubtful Luongo would be going.
Luongo, hurt during the first period of Thursday’s loss to the Hurricanes, was at the arena early Saturday for treatment before leaving.
Florida travels to New Jersey on Sunday afternoon for Monday’s game against the Devils; Florida visits the Islanders on Tuesday in the final road game of the year.
“At this point, I don’t expect it,’’ Horachek said of Luongo. “He’s progressing. In our situation, I think you want to make sure he’s 100 percent. They haven’t given me a final word. ... That would leave us the home stretch here for him to be totally healthy.’’
• Scott Clemmensen returned to the Panthers on Saturday after backing up Michael Houser at AHL San Antonio on Friday night.
• Jonathan Huberdeau (concussion) said he started skating Saturday for the first time with Horachek saying both he and Tomas Kopecky (concussion) could join the team for practice later this week.