"I think at times he just bailed us out," defenceman P.K. Subban said. "He was probably our best player."
He, for a change, wasn't Carey Price. Instead backup goaltender Dustin Tokarski stopped 43 shots, compared to the 25 his teammates put at Dan Ellis.
The Canadiens were outshot for the sixth time in 10 games, a problematic trend that could spell trouble come playoff time.
Montreal is the only team in playoff position that gives up more shots on goal than it takes, at an average of 2.3 a game. The Habs and Vancouver Canucks are the only playoff-bound teams that give up more total shot attempts than they take.
Coach Michel Therrien brushed off concern about the shot discrepancies on Tuesday night. The Panthers had 21 shots to the Habs' four in the third period, but Montreal playing the second half of back-to-back games got the lion's share of the blame.
"I'm not concerned because I understand and know the reason why, that in the third it was more difficult for us," Therrien said.
Despite being outshot on a fairly regular basis, the Canadiens sit atop the Atlantic Division. That's thanks in large part to Price, whose .935 save percentage and 1.93 goals-against average lead the NHL.
Price is the Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy front-runner and Montreal hopes it can ride his brilliance on a run through the Stanley Cup playoffs. The 2010 Habs did it with Jaroslav Halak, getting to the conference final before losing to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Being outshot isn't a reliable recipe for success in the playoffs, though. The key for the Habs, as they showed Tuesday night, is to keep the quality of shots down even if the quantity is high.
"I think the biggest thing is kind of rebound shots: second shots, third chances," forward Brandon Prust said. "We'll give up shots from the outside, but as long as we're getting rid of those rebounds and making sure they're not jumping on second and third opportunities."
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