The Florida Panthers had the number of the Montreal Canadiens for a while, but their winning streak against hockey’s most storied franchise ended Thursday night.
Montreal got a Brendan Gallagher goal late in the third to force overtime and ended up beating the Panthers 3-2 at BB&T Center on an OT goal by Phillip Danault.
Florida finished its five-game homestand featuring all Atlantic Division opponents at 1-1-3.
The Panthers had won the previous five games between the teams and still lead the all-time series against the Canadiens 42-41-6.
“It [stinks] to lose and when you do, it means you weren’t good enough,” said Panthers goalie James Reimer, who made 38 saves in the loss. “I thought we played well and they caught a lucky break late.”
Jason Demers made it 1-0 at 13:58 of the first when his rifle shot went off the pads of former Florida backup Al Montoya and ricocheted off teammate Shea Weber and into the back of the net.
Montreal tied the score on a Max Pacioretty power-play goal 5:45 into the second, but Vincent Trocheck got his second in as many nights with a sweet shot past a screened Montoya on Florida’s third power play of the evening.
But Florida again failed to hang onto the lead as Gallagher beat Reimer with 2:37 remaining in the third.
The overtime loss was Florida’s eighth in a season which has yet to hit the halfway point.
“We need to learn how to close out teams,” Trocheck said.
Florida’s eight OT losses are tied for most in the league with Buffalo. Five of the Panthers’ past seven games have gone to extra time.
“I guess when you’re as undermanned as we are at this point, you scratch and claw for every point,” Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe said. “Again, we had to use our top guys to [kill] a lot of penalties early. ... It catches up to you at some point in the game.”
Added Jussi Jokinen: “I can’t remember being in this many shootouts or overtimes. It’s one bounce, one save, one shot. Every night. It’s a different thing which is the difference in the game. We need to find a way to win them.”
Reimer, who replaced Montoya as Roberto Luongo’s backup on July 1, was sharp throughout the night — and even made a handful of second-period saves sans his stick — but couldn’t keep the Panthers out of their 16th overtime game of the season.
Montoya made 31 stops in his first victory in Sunrise since leaving as a free agent.
“Any time the other team scores more than you do, it’s not a fun night,” Reimer said. “You look at it tomorrow and it’s a valuable point.
“But in the moment, it obviously kind of [stinks].”