By PAUL GEREFFI
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Panthers feel like a first-place team.
Aleksander Barkov had two goals and Jaromir Jagr scored the 733rd of his career to lead the streaking Panthers past the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Tuesday night for their seventh straight victory.
Roberto Luongo stopped 27 shots and the Panthers leapfrogged Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division. The winning streak is their longest since March 2008 and it matches the franchise record.
"It’s a lot of fun. We’re pretty confident. We know how to play the game and how to win the game," Barkov said.
The Panthers have won 13 of their past 16.
"There’s going to be a lot of questions and not many people believe in us," Jagr said. "Most important is those 20 guys that play for each other."
The crowd of 19,822 at the BB&T Center was the largest of the season.
"Anytime the building is like it is tonight, it’s a lot of fun. Our guys fed off it," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said.
Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal, but the slumping Canadiens have lost seven of their past eight games and 11 of 13.
The Canadiens played their third game in four nights.
"No, we can’t use that excuse," Pacioretty said. "We made it hard on ourselves because of lack of execution."
Ben Scrivens made 27 saves in his first NHL action since April 11 last season. Scrivens was in net for the first time since being acquired from Edmonton on Monday.
"I?thought I?made some good saves and I battled, and that was all I was trying to accomplish out there," Scrivens said. "I?thought I played pretty well tonight and hopefully I can build off it going forward."
Barkov’s second goal stretched the lead to 3-1 during 4-on-4 play. Barkov took a pass from Erik Gudbranson in front and poked the puck past Scrivens with 11:07 to play.
Barkov also had an assist on Jagr’s goal. He has 10 points in his last seven games and two goals in back-to-back games.
Jagr gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead 1:16 into the second. Jonathan Huberdeau made the feed to Jagr in front and he made some nifty moves before putting the puck over Scrivens’ shoulder. Huberdeau leads the Panthers with 21 assists.
Montreal took a 1-0 lead on Pacioretty’s power-play goal. Pacioretty took a shot from the slot that beat Luongo on the glove side at 12:39 of the first. The goal was Pacioretty’s team-leading 15th but just his second in the past 13 games.
"We played against a very good team. They have a lot of talent, they’re big, and they’ve matured as a team," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "They and the Capitals are probably the two best teams in our conference, so it was tough."
Barkov tied the score 1-all on a power-play goal at 16:28 of the first. His one-timer from the left circle got past Scrivens, who was screened on the play.
NOTES: Pacioretty has 14 points in 23 career games against the Panthers. … Barkov has 10 points in nine games against Montreal. … Panthers C Nick Bjugstad, sidelined since Nov. 30 with an upper-body injury, participated in his first full practice Monday. Bjugstad led the Panthers with 24 goals last season.
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