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Suzuki scores two goals, Montembeault has 37 saves as the Canadiens surprise the Panthers 5-3

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MONTREAL (AP) — Nick Suzuki scored the tying and go-ahead goals in the second period and Sam Montembeault made 37 saves in leading the Montreal Canadiens to a 5-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

“He’s our leader for a reason,” Canadiens forward Jake Evans said. “He steps up in big moments and he led the charge again tonight.”

Cole Caufield, Joel Armia and Evans also scored while Alex Newhook had two assists for Montreal, which won its fourth in five games.

Aleksander Barkov, Sam Bennett and Anton Lundell tallied for Florida, which lost to Montreal for the first time in four meetings (3-1-0) this season. Anthony Stolarz made 34 saves.

The feisty game featured 66 minutes in penalties, including 52 in the third period.

The playoff-bound Panthers have struggled with losses in eight of their last 10 games, including a 6-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.

“I’m not concerned. We understand where we’re at,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “The team’s a little bit snarly, and we didn’t have enough in the tank to even show that snarl tonight, but they’re fine, they’re gonna be just fine. Everybody relax.”

Florida was missing top forwards Matthew Tkachuk (illness) and Carter Verhaeghe (upper body). Defenseman Aaron Ekblad exited the game before the second period with an undisclosed injury after a skirmish with Canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky late in the first. Maurice said the Panthers would provide an update Wednesday.

“We’re gonna get injured — it’s just a function of the schedule, so it’s going to be a grinder,” he said. “We got a good chunk of adversity right now and part of it will be the panic that will set in outside the room about the eight games.”

The Canadiens went 1-for-7 on the power play. Florida was 0-for-4.

Lundell opened the scoring 9:16 into the first period, but Montreal replied 56 seconds later when Armia scored on a rebound. Barkov, who has 47 points in 35 games against the Canadiens, capitalized on another Canadiens defensive breakdown to make it 2-1 at 13:13.

Suzuki evened the score at 5:58 of the middle period after Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov gifted him a turnover all alone in the slot. The Canadiens captain put his team in front 3-2 with a deflection on the power play at 12:24 for his 32nd of the season.

Caufield carried that momentum into the third with a silky wraparound goal 33 seconds into the period and Evans added a short-handed goal on a breakaway to give the Canadiens a three-goal cushion at 4:34.

Tempers flared with six minutes left when Florida’s Nick Cousins bodychecked Evans after the whistle. Brandon Montour got into it with Brendan Gallagher in the ensuing scrum and threw the Canadiens forward to the ice. Cousins, Montour and Gallagher received 10-minute misconducts.

Bennett scored short-handed to bring Florida within two at 18:44. Despite being down just two goals, Maurice opted not to pull his goalie.

“The way things are going now somebody would take a shot off a foot and break a bone in his foot, so I’m not risking it,” Maurice said. “We’re not all in on this — just get the hell off the ice before somebody else gets hurt.”


Panthers: Visit Ottawa on Thursday

Canadiens: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday night.