Brian Gionta scored the winner in the second period and Carey Price stopped 26 shots to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 2-1 victory over the Panthers on Monday night.
David Desharnais also had a goal for Montreal (25-14-5).
Sean Bergenheim scored for the Panthers (16-21-6), and Tim Thomas made 33 saves.
Gionta scored at 15:46 of the second. Panthers captain Ed Jovanovski gave the puck away softly behind the Florida net to Tomas Plekanec, who fed a wide-open Gionta for his seventh goal of the year.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
The win was Montreal’s first against the Panthers this season. The Panthers beat the Habs twice last month.
The Canadiens opened the scoring at 6:23 of the first period on their first shot on net. Desharnais used Panthers defenseman Tom Gilbert as a screen to beat Thomas with a shot to his left.
Desharnais took a pass from Max Pacioretty while crossing the blue-line to start the play, fanned on the initial shot but recovered to score his sixth goal of the season, on the backhand.
Montreal gained momentum after the goal, outshooting Florida 9-0 over the next 10 minutes.
But it was the Panthers who equalized when Bergenheim beat Price at 17:09 with a backhand shot.
Rookie Aleksander Barkov had an assist — his team-leading 15th of the season — on the goal, to extend his point streak to six games. It’s the longest point streak by a rookie in Panthers history.
Bergenheim almost gave the Panthers the lead a minute later, but his shot rang off the crossbar.
Florida took 16 shots on Price in the third period but couldn’t find the equalizer.
The Panthers and Canadiens meet for the fourth and final time this season on March 29 in Sunrise.
The Panthers had defenseman Erik Gudbranson back in the lineup Monday after he had missed the past two weeks following orbital bone surgery. Gudbranson was struck by a puck just under his left eye during a game in Winnipeg and had surgery on Dec. 23.
“I was told it was a two- or three-week recovery time, and it’s been two weeks today,’’ Gudbranson told reporters after Monday’s morning skate. “I feel ready to go. It’s fun to play, I’m ready to play.’’
• Tomas Fleischmann was left off the Czech Olympic hockey team after a slow start to the season. Fleischmann, who was on the 2010 Olympic team, came into Monday’s game with five goals and 15 assists. He had been the Panthers’ top point producer in each of his first two seasons in Florida. Fleischmann had one goal in November and two in December.
Fleischmann had a goal and two assists in five games at the Vancouver Games in 2010. He also represented his country at the World Championships last spring.
Finland is expected to announce its team on Tuesday. Florida rookie Aleksander Barkov, who came into Monday’s game with 11 points in his past 11 games, could be selected for his first Olympics.
Miami Herald sportswriter George Richards contributed to this report.