February 28th, 2024

Luostarinen scores twice as surging Panthers clip Canadiens 4-1

By Colby Guy, The Associated Press on December 30, 2023.

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) – Eetu Luostarinen scored a pair of power-play goals as the Florida Panthers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Saturday night, extending their winning streak to four games.

Sam Bennett and Carter Verhaeghe also scored for the Panthers, who outscored Montreal 3-0 in the third period. Anthony Stolarz finished with 18 saves for Florida.

Cole Caufield scored for the Canadiens, who dropped their second straight game in regulation after getting at least one point in each of their previous five games. Jake Allen stopped 22 shots for Montreal.

Luostarinen opened the scoring by deflecting an Evan Rodrigues shot 4:05 into the second period. Caufield scored a power-play goal of his own 7:01 into the second, and then Luostarinen gave Florida the lead for good with 12:26 left.

Bennett deflected an Oliver Ekman-Larsson shot with 4:34 left for a 3-1 lead, and Verhaeghe added an empty-netter.

The Canadiens play their sixth game in a run of seven straight on the road – three before Christmas, four following the break for the holiday – on Sunday night in Tampa Bay, a game that’ll mark the fourth time former Lightning great Martin St. Louis has been back there as Montreal’s coach.

Montreal is 1-2-0 in St. Louis’ three previous appearances in Tampa as coach of the Canadiens. The Canadiens are 0-6-0 against the Panthers since St. Louis took over, Florida winning all of those games by at least three goals.

It was Florida’s final game of 2023, the year in which the Panthers won more games than ever before. They won 61 times in 2023, a year highlighted by a run to the Stanley Cup final and one that only added to the best run in the franchise’s history.

Over the last three calendar years, the Panthers have averaged 59.3 wins. In the franchise’s history, from 1993 through 2020, it averaged 31 wins per year.

UP NEXT

Canadiens: Visit Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Panthers: Visit Arizona on Tuesday to start a four-game trip.

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL

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