The Florida Panthers got a little closer to their playoff goal.
Dave Bolland scored the shootout winner to cap off the Cats’ 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
“We’ve been doing that all year. We never quit. No matter what the score is, we believe in our chances that we can win the game,” said Roberto Luongo, who stopped 37 shots. “Even into the third, down a goal, we knew that we were right in it to get one. We’ve done it many times before. The boys stayed calm; there was no panic in our dressing room, and we got the job done.”
With the win, the Cats moved to within a point of the Boston Bruins, who hold the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
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“There’s a lot of work to be done. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” cautioned Luongo. “We realize we’re in the thick of things, which is exciting and fun for our group.
“It sounds cliché but we really do have to take it one game at a time. We can’t get too high after a big win or too low after a loss. Obviously it was a
big win for us tonight and we’ll enjoy it but tomorrow back to work for the next one.”
For the second consecutive game, the Panthers were kept at bay on the shot clock. After tossing just six on Carey Price in the first period, they struggled again in the second, recording seven en route to falling behind.
Brendan Gallagher broke the scoreless deadlock at 2:31 of the middle frame. The Canadiens winger carried the puck in and dished off to Max Pacioretty before driving hard to the net.
Luongo stopped Pacioretty’s shot from the top of the right circle but Gallagher was at the crease for the rebound, tucking it in under Luongo’s pad.
Gallagher put the Panthers in a 2-0 hole 10 minutes later when, after Luongo stopped P.K. Subban’s shot from the right circle, the feisty winger picked up the loose puck in the crease and lifted it past the goal line.
Fleischmann got the Cats on the board at 11:54. Price tried to clear the puck out of the Canadiens’ zone but it was the Panthers who picked up the puck, shooting several times from the slot before Fleischmann fired from the high slot, the puck hitting Montreal’s Lars Eller on its way in.
Defenseman Jarred Tinordi was whistled for interference for a neutral-zone hit on Fleischmann, one that Alex Petrovic took exception to, with the pair dropping the gloves early in the third period.
“I think that was huge,” Steven Kampfer said. “I think it was a turning point and got us moving a little bit more. It got everybody fired up on the bench.
“When you see a guy going out there and stepping up for a teammate like that, it’s huge.”
Fleischmann was no worse for the wear, however, setting up Kampfer as time expired on Tinordi’s minor. Stationed behind the net, the left winger fed Kampfer at the bottom of the left circle, and his bad-angle shot beat Price for his first of the season.
“[Credit] goes to Flash,” Kampfer said of the setup. “The play that he had, taking it behind the net and giving me a couple of extra seconds to get into position to shoot was huge. Definitely the whole play goes to him.”