The Panthers had more than just Scott Clemmensen trying to keep the puck out of the net in the final five-plus minutes on Sunday.
Thanks to players like Mike Weaver, Dmitry Kulikov, Brian Campbell and Jesse Winchester getting in the way, the host Canadiens didn’t register a shot in the final 5:27 as Florida held on for a 2-1 win at Bell Center.
Florida has won three straight and five of six for the first time this season.
“Our guys were diving in front of shots, putting sticks out there to deflect passes,’’ said Clemmensen, who got the win in his second straight start with just 17 saves as the Panthers got credit for 22 blocked shots.
“I tip my hat to the guys in front of me. When you don’t have to make a save, it makes things a lot easier.’’
Montreal trailed 2-0 coming into the third after Florida scored twice in the second. The Canadiens, who played in New York on Saturday, cut Florida’s lead in half on Alex Galchenyuk’s power play goal 2:28 in.
The Canadiens had been badly outplayed in the first 40 minutes yet came to play in the third. Florida hurt itself late in the third when Weaver went to the box for charging and Scottie Upshall was called for a cross-check.
That put the Panthers down two skaters for 35 seconds and on a penalty kill for 3:25.
Thanks to some strong play from Kulikov — who saved a goal during the kill — Florida survived.
“If we didn’t kill that off, who knows what would have happened,’’ Kulikov said. “They really would have had some momentum going. It was a big kill.’’
In the final minute, Montreal pulled goalie Peter Budaj to add an attacker. P.K. Subban’s long shot flew wide with 34 seconds left before Weaver and Winchester — who gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead — jumped in front of Andrei Markov shots to keep Clemmensen out of any further danger.
“When you’re blocking shots like that, you know you’re doing a lot of the right things,’’ said coach Peter Horachek, who is now 9-8-1 since taking over for the fired Kevin Dineen on Nov. 8.
“You saw a lot of commitment there. .-.-. I think that shows the determination they have.’’
All of that would have been moot had Florida put the game away with 1:09 left. Hockey Central in Toronto reviewed video of a goal from Brad Boyes (which would have made it 3-1) and determined it was kicked in. One angle showed the puck appear to clip a Montreal stick after Boyes tapped it soccer-style — which should have made it a good goal.
After a scoreless first, Florida took a 1-0 lead when Tomas Kopecky saw Winchester sitting alone out front and put a pass from behind the cage on the tape of his stick. Winchester, who was playing in place of Jonathan Huberdeau (foot), scored his career-high fifth goal by blasting said feed past Budaj.
Late in the second, Nick Bjugstad and Tomas Fleischmann charged in on the Montreal goalie with Bjugstad taking a Fleischmann delivery and scoring at the 7:11 mark.
“That goal counted [as the game-winner] but a lot more went into winning that game,’’ said Bjugstad, who scored his sixth of the year. “A lot of guys were involved in this.’’
Huberdeau said he took a shot off a skate during the third period of Friday’s shootout win against the Capitals. Although Huberdeau finished the game — and scored in the shootout — his right foot swelled as soon as he took off his skate.
Sunday’s game was the first Huberdeau missed since the Panthers made him the third overall pick in 2011. Huberdeau spent the day in a walking boot.
“It’s best I stay away from the ice for now,’’ said Huberdeau, who is from nearby Saint-Jerome, Quebec. “This is day-to-day and I want to be ready for Tuesday’s game.”• Defenseman Erik Gudbranson left late in the first period after getting tangled up in the corner and getting slashed in the leg by an errant skate blade.
Gudbranson didn’t return and was seen limping badly although both Horachek and GM Dale Tallon said he wouldn’t be put on the injured list.