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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, February 26th (All times Eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (24-28-10) at Florida Panthers (28-20-12), 5 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Florida Panthers will try to take over sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division when they host the Montreal Canadiens today at BankAtlantic Center.

The Panthers enter today tied with idle Winnipeg for the Southeast lead at 68 points apiece. Florida, which hasn't made the playoffs since 2000, currently has the inside track on the division crown, as it has played four less games than the Jets.

While the Jets dropped an overtime decision against visiting St. Louis on Saturday, the Panthers were able to record a shootout victory at Carolina. Stephen Weiss scored the game-winning goal in the third round of the shootout, as Florida rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes at RBC Center.

Carolina led 2-0 heading into the third period, but Tomas Fleischmann and Wojtek Wolski scored for the Panthers in the final stanza to force overtime. Wolski was playing in his first game for Florida after being acquired by the Panthers earlier on Saturday in a trade with the New York Rangers.

In the shootout, Weiss picked up the puck and went in on goal with speed. He made a quick move to his backhand and squeezed the puck through the pads of Hurricanes' netminder Justin Peters.

"Half the time, when I have something in mind, I talk myself out of it halfway down," Weiss said of his shootout routine. "I just do whatever comes to mind."

Jose Theodore stopped 2-of-3 shooters in the shootout and made 26 saves through overtime to record the win. The victory ended a four-game losing streak for the Panthers, who were 0-3-1 in their previous four contests.

The Panthers have still dropped four straight on home ice and are 14-8-8 as the host this season.

Florida has won both meetings against the Habs this season, but Montreal still has six victories in the last 10 games of this series. The Canadiens have also won three of five and six of their last nine road tests against the Panthers.

With just 20 games left on their schedule, the Canadiens are running out of time to break into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Montreal is currently last in the conference, but is still only 10 points out the East's final postseason berth.

However, Montreal has not played like a team that is desperate to make a run at the postseason lately. The Canadiens have dropped three straight in regulation and were dealt a 4-1 loss Friday night in Washington. Michal Neuvirth stopped 30 shots to help the Capitals subdue the Habs at the Verizon Center.

Rene Bourque scored the lone goal for Montreal and Carey Price was tagged for three goals on 23 shots.

"We knew they were going to come at us hard in front of their crowd," said Montreal forward Erik Cole. "I thought we played good in the third period, but it was way too late by then."

Friday's tilt kicked off a three-game road trip for Montreal, which is 13-14-2 as the guest this season. The Canadiens will end the swing Tuesday in Tampa.

02/26 10:58:58 ET


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