In much of Stephen Weiss' tenure with the Panthers, the team has sold off players at the trade deadline for future considerations and players on a try-out basis who rarely make the cut.
This is not one of those years. The Panthers are contenders. They are buyers, not sellers. Weiss is obviously happy for the change.
Led by a pair of goals from Weiss, Florida won its second straight game on Sunday by routing the last-place Canadiens 4-2 in front of 18,108 at BankAtlantic Center.
“It's a nice feeling, not saying goodbye to seven or eight guys who are your buddies,'' said Weiss, who was honored in a pregame ceremony to commemorate setting the franchise record for games played.
“It's nice to be in the race at this time of year. This is what it's all about. This is what we've been talking about all along is getting this team to this point. We're not there yet but we're getting there.''
The wins on consecutive nights came after the Panthers made two minor, albeit necessary moves to bolster their forward depth.
On Saturday, newcomer Wojtek Wolski scored the game-tying goal at Carolina. On Sunday, Jerred Smithson won 10 of his 15 face offs and was third among forwards in short-handed play.
And general manager Dale Tallon may not be done dealing to improve a first-place Panthers team vying for their first trip to the postseason since last making it way back in 2000. The trade deadline comes Monday at 3 p.m.
“I think Dale has done a great job so far,'' said Brian Campbell, who scored Florida's final goal midway through the third. “I don't know that he's done. He's brought in some pieces for us.''
Florida avoided its first five game home winless streak since this time last season but it didn't come easy as the Panthers spotted the Canadiens a 2-0 lead. First David Desharnais beat Scott Clemmensen during 4-on-4 play before P.K. Subban whipped in a shot when Montreal held a 5-on-3 advantage.
Those were the highlights for the Canadiens.
As was the case Saturday in Raleigh, the Panthers dominated play after that and closed the gap to 2-1 on Weiss' goal in which he out-muscled Josh Gorges down low and banged in a rebound. It was Weiss' first official goal (his shootout winner from Saturday doesn't count) in a span of 12 games and was only his third in the past 32.
“I've always gone to the net,'' Weiss deadpanned. “It's a matter of the puck laying there for you to tap in. It's nice to get some bounces but I didn't change anything. I played the same way. Hopefully this kick-starts something.''
In the second, Sean Bergenheim tied it on a nice snap shot 1:09 into the frame before Weiss got his second less than three minutes later after getting tangled up with goalie Peter Budaj and knocking home a shot from Mikael Samuelsson.
Weiss now centers a line with Samuelsson and Bergenheim, a trio that was on fire Sunday. The three combined for three goals and five assists.
Sunday's win comes on the heels of a disappointing homestand in which the Panthers went 0-3-1 and not only failed to build a nice cushion in the Southeast Division – but eventually lost the lead. Florida goes into deadline day – an unofficial Canadian holiday – up two points in the division on Winnipeg and three on Washington.
“This is a nice place for us to be at this time of the year,'' Dineen said. “To be able to wake up in the morning and pick up the Miami Herald and read the standings is nice. You can see we're in the playoff hunt, the team is adding players and we're serious about putting a push together.''
() Dineen said Kris Versteeg was “hurting” after Saturday's win in Carolina and had John Madden (foot) warm up as a precaution. Versteeg played but left the game during the second and third periods and Dineen said – without disclosing the injury – that Versteeg is questionable for Tuesday's game in Toronto.
“He was a little sore [Saturday] in Carolina and rallied and gave us what he could,'' Dineen said.