(SportsNetwork.com) - The Florida Panthers hope to stay in the mix for a playoff spot on Saturday evening when they visit the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens.
The Panthers have won three of four and six of their past nine games to remain in the hunt for a wild card position. They are three points behind the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators, who have 85 points each and are both in action on Saturday.
Florida took advantage of a struggling Toronto club on Thursday and handed the Maple Leafs a 4-1 loss. Brandon Pirri paced the offense with a pair of goals, giving him seven in his last seven games and 17 tallies over his previous 22 games.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Steven Kampfer scored 30 seconds apart in the second period for the Panthers, while Roberto Luongo made 24 saves in his 399th career win. He lost his shutout bid at the 9:13 mark of the third period.
"In the third period, the last 12 minutes, I just thought we sat on that lead and we didn't play our game," said Florida coach Gerard Gallant.
The Panthers have split the first two contests of a five-game swing that continues with a big game versus the Senators on Sunday.
Luongo is 11-14-3 with a 2.53 goals against average and .920 save percentage in 32 career meetings with Montreal.
The Habs are just about locked into a playoff spot, though they missed out on officially clinching a berth with Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Montreal lost its second straight and fell one point behind the New York Rangers for the most points in the Eastern Conference.
Montreal still leads Tampa Bay by one point for first place in the Atlantic Division and both teams have seven games to play. The Lightning visit the Detroit Red Wings today.
Andrei Markov and Brendan Gallagher scored versus the Jets, but backup goaltender Dustin Tokarski gave up five goals on just 22 shots.
"They just want to use their speed and forecheck and play physical hockey," Gallagher, who has scored in four straight games, said of the Jets. "They did that tonight. We expected that. It wasn't anything that caught us off guard, but it's the strength of their team. They were able to create some chances off of it."
Montreal begins a three-game homestand this evening and figures to go back to No. 1 Carey Price, who is 7-4-2 lifetime versus Florida with a 1.75 GAA, .943 save percentage and two shutouts in 13 games.
The Habs have won seven of their past 10 games versus the Panthers, but have lost four of the past six played at home in this series.