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Big Win for JM's Panthers

JM

Jacques Martin, or, JM the former GM, didn't look very happy walking out of the visiting coaches locker room Tuesday night.

Nor should he.

Without a doubt, the Canadiens can blame their coach for Tuesday’s loss to the Panthers.

Martin, the first-year coach of Montreal, not only traded for goalie Tomas Vokoun while working as general manager of the Panthers, but brought in Shawn Matthias and Michal Repik too.

Those three were instrumental in Florida’s 2-1 win over the Canadiens at BankAtlantic Center.

Martin may have left the Panthers over the summer, but he didn’t take their players when he headed north.

After Tuesday, he probably would love to have had that option.

Matthias scored both of Florida’s goals and Vokoun made 16 saves for his fourth straight win at home. Montreal, up 1-0 after two periods, had been 16-0 when leading going into the third this season.

“Jacques made a lot of decisions for this organization, brought me and a lot of guys in here,’’ Matthias said. “It’s always good to beat your old coach or GM. It’s a nice feeling. You never like to lose to people you played with.’’

The Panthers have struggled mightily against the Canadiens of late, losing three of four to Montreal last season and the first two meetings of this one.

Those three losses last season were costly as well, as Montreal and the Panthers had identical records and tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Head-to-head record was the tiebreaker that cost the Panthers a spot in the postseason.

These two teams are jockeying for a playoff slot this season as well, with the Panthers moving into a four-way tie for sixth place in the east with the win. Montreal, the Rangers and Philadelphia are also there.

Yes it’s very early, but the Panthers can take some satisfaction of being in this hunt.

“It’s an important two points,’’ said coach Pete DeBoer, hired by Martin in 2008. “There’s no doubt this is motivation. The thing was, jump into eighth or drop to 13 or 14. It’s so tight. No doubt it’s a mental up when you walk into the locker room and you see you’re above that line and in the playoffs.’’

Tuesday, Matthias scored the Panthers first penalty shot since Radek Dvorak scored one off Montreal last January. That penalty shot – he broke free of the Montreal defense and was pulled down by Josh Gorges – came at 3:01 of the third and tied the score at 1.

A few minutes later, Matthias scored again, banging in Repik’s rebound through with 7:01 left.

Montreal led 1-0 when Tomas Plekanec scored on the Canadiens’ lone power play of the game, 1:13 left in the second. Aside from that goal, Montreal didn’t do much of anything all night.

“It was a gutsy effort,’’ said captain Bryan McCabe -- another JM import not called a Lexus.

“Vokoun has given us a chance to win every night and this was no different. We’re getting different guys to step up. Tonight it was Matthias. Hopefully that continues.’’

-- Vokoun set the franchise record for longest home shutout streak at 202:16. Roberto Luongo held the record of 169:35 set in 2003.

 

 

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