MONTREAL (AP) — Paul Byron scored twice, Brendan Gallagher had a goal and three assists, and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Florida Panthers 6-2 on Thursday night to clinch a playoff spot.
Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault also scored for Montreal (44-24-9). Carey Price made 29 saves for his 36th victory of the season.
The Canadiens will play in the postseason for the fourth time in the past five years, and for the eighth time in the last decade.
Reilly Smith and Michael Matheson scored for the Panthers (33-33-11). Reto Berra, replacing injured goalies James Reimer (upper body) and Roberto Luongo (lower body), stopped 27 shots.
Montreal jumped out a fast start, and Florida never recovered.
Plekanec’s line with Byron and Gallagher scored three times in a 5:55 span in the first.
Byron got his 21st goal at 7:24, capitalizing on a failed clearance by Florida. Plekanec doubled Montreal’s lead at 10:04, beating Berra from the slot off a centering pass from Gallagher. Byron then got his second of the game, deflecting a sharp pass by Nathan Beaulieu past Berra.
The Canadiens added three more in the third. A lucky bounce led to a 2-on-1 for Alexander Radulov and Pacioretty, who scored his team-leading 35th goal at 3:52. Gallagher made it 5-2 when he deflected Brandon Davidson’s shot from the point at 12:55 of the third. Danault finished the scoring at 16:49.
Down 3-0, Florida had a golden opportunity to get back in the game when Pacioretty and Shea Weber took back-to-back penalties, but the Panthers failed to convert on the 5-on-3 that lasted 1:22.
Smith scored for Florida at 10:41 of the second, beating Price with a low wrist shot from the face-off circle. Matheson scored his sixth of the season at 8:45 of the third.
NOTES: G Charlie Lindgren, who was recalled from the St. John’s IceCaps on Wednesday, served as Price’s backup. … Florida’s Jason Demers played his 500th NHL game.
Panthers: Visit Boston on Saturday.
Canadiens: Visit Tampa Bay on Saturday.
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