The remaking of the Panthers in just over one year under Dale Tallon is so thorough, David Booth said he recognized more faces in the Vancouver locker room after being traded there this past weekend than he did when he reported to training camp.
One of the few players left with ties to former general manager Jacques Martin played a big role against the Martin-coached Canadiens on Monday.
Jacob Markstrom's performance against Montreal didn't help Martin's cause in Montreal.
Markstrom, drafted by Martin in 2008, made his second career start and made 40 saves – many of the spectacular variety – as the Panthers added more misery to the beleaguered Martin as Florida escaped Bell Center with a 2-1 win.
The Canadiens have now lost six straight – and made history on Monday by losing their first five home games for the first time in the franchise's storied history.
The Panthers don't really care that their old boss is in hot water, nor that the Canadiens are struggling. Florida is now 5-3-0 and have won two straight going into Thursday's game at Ottawa.
“Everyone played a very solid game starting in net and moving out,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “It's nice to know we have such stability in net. What a difference it makes. It really gives you a hitch in your step.''
Markstrom may have supplanted Jose Theodore as Florida's starter after making 18 saves in relief to beat the Islanders on Saturday.
On Monday, Markstrom stood tall against the desperate Canadiens as he rejected one shot after another.
The Panthers trailed 1-0 after Erik Cole – a Florida nemesis from his Carolina days – scored on a power play 3:08 into the game.
But that was all the Habs would get.
Florida tied the score on a power play goal of its own with 4:01 left in the first as Tomas Fleischmann streaked in front of the net and deflected a pass from Kris Versteeg past backup goalie Peter Budaj.
The Panthers broke out in front for the first – and last time – with 14:58 left when Dmitry Kulikov fired off a long shot and Scottie Upshall put a stick on it and deflected the puck past Budaj for a 2-1 lead.
Montreal came hard at the end, holding a two-man advantage in the final minute when Jason Garrison was called for hooking with 49.9 seconds left.
“It was absolutely great,'' said Markstrom, a gold championship fighting belt wrapped over his shoulder in the locker room. “It doesn't matter where you play, a win is a win. But it's great to get a road win. They threw a lot at the net. I was just trying to stay big and let the guys take care of the rebounds.''
Of the two players acquired in the Booth deal on Saturday, only Marco Sturm played on Monday. Mikael Samuelsson, who missed his final two games before the trade, stayed behind in Vancouver to continue to get healthy. Samuelsson is not expected to play for the Panthers until sometime next week at the earliest.
“I wanted him to stay in Vancouver for a few days,'' Dineen said. “He has the opportunity to work with someone there that he feels will really strengthen his core for the season. I feel that's a priority, that he comes in feeling extremely good. Instead of throwing him in with new teammates, a new medical staff, I felt he should take care of his business in Vancouver and come here feeling good.''
Samuelsson had to have abductor tendon and sports hernia surgery last May during Vancouver's run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
“I just want to make sure he continues to get the medical treatment he's been getting and is used to,'' Dineen said. “I felt it was more important for him to stay out there and keep doing that instead of rushing to get here for tonight's game. There's a small window and we'll see him soon enough.''
-- Center Mike Santorelli returned from his shoulder injury as Ryan Carter and Keaton Ellerby were scratched.
-- Booth to the Vancouver media about being traded: “I know they’re turning around the organization. It takes some time. Dale [Tallon] has his idea and way of doing things. I wasn’t part of his plan. That's fine. You can't please everyone.''