Moments after Toronto did the Panthers a gigantic favor by beating Ottawa in overtime Saturday night, Montreal got a little gift of its own.
A questionable high-sticking call on Vincent Trocheck in overtime led to a Montreal goal and a 3-2 win over Florida at Bell Centre.
The Panthers stayed three points back of the Senators in the playoff race as both got a point in their overtime losses. Boston picked up two points on both after beating the Rangers.
Florida sure would have liked to get that extra one point especially because it visits the Senators on Sunday evening.
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As big as Saturday’s game was, Sunday may be even more important.
Goalie Roberto Luongo will get the start.
“We just have to forget about this one. Ottawa is going to be huge,’’ Jonathan Huberdeau said.
Florida didn’t get much love from the officials, getting one power play as the home team scored twice on its four chances with the man advantage.
After Max Pacioretty scored the game-winner seven seconds after Trocheck hit the penalty box, Florida coach Gerard Gallant followed the officials off the ice and into the Zamboni tunnel.
One official was seen gestering to Gallant to head back toward his exit, but instead he kept going with the referees. General manager Dale Tallon came down from the press gondola with plenty of colorful yet unprintable quotes.
“I didn’t say much, it was just tough for us to get a power play,’’ Gallant said.
“I thought we battled hard, played hard and to get just one power play is disappointing. The call [on Trocheck] was probably the [right] call, but when you don’t call it all night that’s disappointing.’’
Montreal, which locked up a playoff spot with the win, took a 1-0 lead in the first before Sasha Barkov brought Florida back with a pair of pretty goals.
The first, coming 6:09 into the second, came off a rush between himself, Jaromir Jagr and Huberdeau. Barkov corralled the puck from Huberdeau, deked left before backhanding a shot over Carey Price’s shoulder.
Eight minutes later, Barkov took a feed from Huberdeau in the slot and sent a softer offering that found its way home.
“We deserved the two points,’’ Barkov said. “We have a big one [Sunday], and we need to win these games. We’re playing pretty great. I think we have good chance to make the playoffs.’’
Montreal tied it just over a minute later and the two played a scoreless third with both Luongo (looking for his 400th NHL win in his hometown) and Price making one good save after another.
TALKS ON HOLD
Tallon said he met with Peter Svoboda, the agent for Jagr and expressed the team’s desire to sign the pending free agent for next season.
Tallon said he and Svoboda spoke about a number of things and that a contract for Jagr isn’t forthcoming with the team focusing on its playoff push.
“This is too important a time; we’ll get to it when time is right,’’ Tallon said.
“We’ll talk after the season. ... He has interest [in staying] but is a free agent on July 1. He’ll make up his mind when he makes up his mind. From what I’ve seen and what has gone on, it would be tremendous to have him back here.’’
▪ Tallon said center Nick Bjugstad got the opinion of three specialists before deciding to have back surgery on Friday in Minneapolis.
Bjugstad and his family decided to have the procedure for what Tallon called a herniated disk in Minnesota so he would be at home for recovery.
The injury initially happened in Florida’s previous visit to Montreal last month.