Panthers resume hunt for playoff spot against Habs

( - The Florida Panthers look to stay on track in their hunt for a playoff spot on Thursday evening as they resume a road trip versus the Montreal Canadiens.

The Panthers halted a three-game slide by picking up a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday in the opener of a five-game swing. Roberto Luongo made 27 saves, while Jussi Jokinen and Nick Bjugstad had power-play goals.

Jimmy Hayes also tallied and Brian Campbell notched a pair of assists for Florida, which is three points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

"Special teams were definitely the key," Florida head coach Gerard Gallant said. "We played well and hard. It was a good win for us."

Luongo figures to start tonight and is 10-14-3 with a 2.55 goals against average, .919 save percentage and two shutouts lifetime versus the Canadiens.

The Canadiens are in action for a second straight night and had won five of their previous six before losing a 4-2 decision to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. Dustin Tokarski got the start in net and made 35 saves in defeat.

Nathan Beaulieu scored his first NHL goal and Max Pacioretty also lit the lamp for Montreal.

"It seems like the same story too often," said Pacioretty. "We have to find ways to put more goals up on the board."

Montreal lost defenseman Alexei Emelin to injury just 20 seconds into the game as he collided with the boards. His status for this game is unknown.

The Canadiens dipped into a tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division due to the loss and the Bolts winning in Anaheim on Wednesday night. Both clubs are four points up on third-place Detroit.

The Habs have won three in a row and six of their past eight versus the Panthers, including a 2-1 shootout victory in Florida on Dec. 30. P.A. Parenteau had the lone tally of the tiebreaker and Tokarski made 36 saves.

No. 1 Carey Price will start tonight for the Canadiens however and is 7-4-1 versus the Panthers with a 1.74 GAA, .945 save percentage and two shutouts.

Bjugstad had a regulation goal versus Montreal in the loss and Luongo made 33 saves.