Florida Panthers

Panthers score late but fall in shootout to Canadiens

Close call: Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo watches the puck slide wide of the net in the first period on Tuesday night against the Canadiens.
Close call: Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo watches the puck slide wide of the net in the first period on Tuesday night against the Canadiens. AP

The Panthers haven’t been able to put a three-game winning streak together all season.

It’s one of the few things this team hasn’t been good at this year.

Tuesday night, in front of the largest home crowd in a year, the Panthers failed to get an elusive victory although they sure gave it everything they had.

Montreal, playing its annual home-away-from-home game at BB&T Center, watched the Panthers force overtime with a late Nick Bjugstad goal before winning 2-1 in a shootout.

The Panthers are winless in four games following a second consecutive win, but the Canadiens are currently riding a four-game winning streak and have won three-plus games in a row five times this season.

“You go on those streaks, but truthfully I take it one game at a time,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said Tuesday morning.

“I know we won our last game, but that’s in the past. I’m moving forward. I couldn’t tell you what our record is in the past 10. I don’t worry about that.’’

The Panthers once again had plenty of chances offensively, but just couldn’t solve backup goalie Dustin Tokarski until the clock had almost run out.

Down 1-0 with under two minutes left, goalie Roberto Luongo looked at the bench as if to come out to add another attacker.

Instead, Bjugstad broke into the Montreal offensive zone and hung a shot that zipped past Tokarski with 1:49 remaining in regulation.

It was the first goal of the night since Montreal took a 1-0 lead late in the first period.

The Canadiens won at Carolina on Monday night with All-Star Carey Price in net but getting Montreal’s backup didn’t bring Florida any breaks.

Tokarski, playing for the first time since last month, made 33 saves before Bjugstad scored.

The teams were scoreless throughout nearly the first two periods with Florida almost taking the initial lead when Aleksander Barkov rang a shot off the goal cage.

Moments later, Brendan Gallagher gave Montreal a 1-0 lead when his 30-foot shot hit Roberto Luongo and snuck through his skates with 1:06 left in the second.

Luongo made 33 saves against his hometown team but couldn’t keep Florida’s home winning run going. The Panthers had gone 6-0-2 in their previous eight in Sunrise.

“We kind of struggled the whole game but we had our chances,’’ Bjugstad said.

“We didn't have momentum from the get-go. It was nice to force a shootout, but we didn't capitalize and that’s what happens when you don’t play 60 minutes. It was nice to get a point, though.

“That's one of the better teams in the league.’’

The Panthers’ four-game shootout winning streak also ended as Florida went 0for3 while Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored on Montreal’s third offering.

Florida had a nice chance to win, but Jimmy Hayes misfired on an empty net in the closing seconds of overtime.

The Panthers (5-5 in shootouts) get a chance to get going quickly as the Rangers come to town Wednesday evening.

FLASH RETURNS

Tomas Fleischmann was back in the Florida lineup after being scratched the previous two games after Tomas Kopecky came up with a minor injury in Sunday’s victory against Toronto.

Gallant said Kopecky has an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. Brandon Pirri missed his second game in a row.

Fleischmann has been scratched four times this season after leading the Panthers in scoring in 2011-12 and in 2013.

Said Gallant: “I’m not disappointed with him, but we have 14 forwards and have to sit two.’’

▪ The announced crowd of 19,614 was Florida’s largest of the season and biggest since the team announced 19,891 last year when the Canadiens made their New Year’s visit.

Wednesday: Rangers at Panthers

When/where: 6 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.

TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560.

Series: New York leads 43-34-6.

Noteworthy: New York, the defending Eastern Conference champs, has won 12 of its past 16 games, including 10 of 13. The Rangers won all three games against Florida last season. This is New York’s only game in Sunrise this season.

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