By PAUL GEREFFI
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Dustin Tokarski made the most of his first start in six games.
P.K. Subban scored the last of Montreal’s three second-period goals, and the Canadiens held on to beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Tokarski made a season-high 41 saves, including 21 in the third period, and earned his second win in seven starts.
“It’s my job to give the team a chance to win, whether it’s 15 shots or 50 shots,” Tokarski said. “The guys rallied hard. The only thing that matters is the two points.”
His previous win was a 6-4 victory over the New York Islanders on Jan. 17.
“For us, the number one guy was Tokarski,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. “He was just phenomenal. He made key save after key save, especially in the third period.”
Tokarski got the nod so regular goalie Carey Price could be given a rest. Price started on Monday night in a 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay.
“Sometimes you’ve got to find a way to win, and that is what we did tonight,” Therrien said.
Jacob De La Rose had a goal and an assist, and Alexei Emelin also scored for the Canadiens.
Brandon Pirri and Aleksander Barkov scored for the Panthers. Dan Ellis stopped 22 shots in his sixth straight start.
The Canadiens won for just the third time in nine games, but they remain atop the Atlantic Division with 95 points.
The Panthers lost their second straight after winning three consecutively. They outshot Montreal 21-4 in the third period but couldn’t score.
“It seemed like we threw everything at them,” Pirri said. “You have to give (Tokarski) credit. He made some saves. We can’t leave it until the third (period).”
Florida goalie Roberto Luongo missed his sixth consecutive game due to an upper-body injury and remains day-to-day.
The Panthers playoff chances are fading. They trail the Ottawa Senators by three points and the Boston Bruins by seven points for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with 12 games left.
“We know we’ve got a long way to go,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “You’re not going to get seven points in one night. We’ve got to start with the next game against Detroit and get two points.”
All of the scoring was in the second period.
Subban made it 3-2 when his shot from high in the right circle beat Ellis on the stick side at 15:26.
Pirri had tied it at 2 when his shot from the right circle went in at 13:35. Pirri has 13 goals in his past 18 games.
De La Rose gave the Canadiens a 2-1 lead at 8:23 with a short-handed goal, the sixth scored by Montreal this season. Brandon Prust corralled a loose puck along the left side, then made a perfect feed to De La Rose at the right circle for a shot past Ellis.
“It’s always nice to get a goal,” De La Rose said. “It was a good pass by Prust.”
Barkov gave Florida a 1-0 lead when he grabbed a loose puck in the slot and wristed it past Tokarski at 4:20. Barkov has a career-high 25 points this season.
Emelin tied it with a shot from the point that went through traffic in front and high into the net at 5:44.
NOTES: Canadiens C Brian Flynn was scratched due to an upper-body injury sustained Monday. … C Torrey Mitchell (upper-body) and D Nathan Beaulieu (flu) each missed their second straight game. … The “Goal of a Lifetime” contest during the first intermission ended in a tie. Contestants Dustin Smith and Bill Ruggiero each stopped three of four shots in a shootout and will both serve as the Panthers’ practice backup goalie on Wednesday. The contest, inspired by injuries to Luongo and Al Montoya on March 3, drew over 1,500 applicants and 65 participants.
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