MONTREAL – Alex Galchenyuk and the Montreal Canadiens are on the board.
Galchenyuk scored his first NHL goal and defenseman Andrei Markov scored a pair to lead the Canadiens to their first win of the season Tuesday, a 4-1 decision against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre.
After opening the season with an impressive 5-1 win at home against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Panthers (1-2-0) lost for the second time in as many nights after dropping a 4-0 decision in Ottawa on Monday.
Galchenyuk, the No. 3 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, scored at 14:25 of the second period to give the Canadiens a 4-1 lead with an incredible deflection. Brandon Prust wheeled around the Panthers net toward the half boards and blindly threw a shot on goal that looked to be headed towards Galchenyuk’s mid-section in front. But the rookie somehow got his stick on the puck and tipped it up and over Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen, landing it just past the goal line.
Galchenyuk ran straight for the boards and jumped into the glass as the capacity crowd of 21,273 roared in approval, giving him a standing ovation for reaching the milestone.
Canadiens rookie Brandon Gallagher was making his NHL debut and earned his first career point on the play, while Prust’s assist was his first point in a Canadiens uniform after signing as an unrestricted free agent last summer.
Markov’s two goals snapped a long drought for the often-injured defenseman.
His last goal came on Nov. 9, 2010 against the Vancouver Canucks, but because of a serious knee injury since that time, he had only gone 16 games without one. Still, after waiting 26 months between goals, Markov got two in a span of 15:07.
Carrying a 4-1 lead into the third period, the Canadiens gave the Panthers a golden opportunity to get back into the game when Ryan White went after Tomas Fleischmann for hitting defenseman Josh Gorges from behind at 3:13 of the third period. White was given an instigator and a fighting major while Fleischmann was only given a minor penalty, giving Florida a five-minute power play. Markov was then called for interference at 6:37, giving the Panthers 1:36 of a two-man advantage.
But Florida managed only two shots on goal over the five-minute power play and never really threatened to score, snuffing out any chance the Panthers may have had to get back in the game.
Gallagher wasn’t the only rookie making his NHL debut as the Panthers dressed Drew Shore in place of Mike Santorelli, and the No. 44 pick in the 2010 draft had a great scoring chance with 3:20 left in regulation but he was robbed by a nice pad save by Price.
Alex Kovalev was making a return to the building where he made the fans rise out of their seats over his five years with the Canadiens, but his most remarkable play of the game came on a goal for the home team when he missed a defensive assignment to allow Plekanec to open the scoring at 3:26 of the first period on a one-timer five-hole from the slot.
Markov got his first on a power play at 13:24, rifling a slap shot top corner past a helpless Clemmensen.
Tomas Kopecky got Florida on the board with a power-play goal at 4:33, a rocket of a one-timer off a Fleischmann feed, but Markov got his second on another power play point shot at 8:31 to re-establish Montreal’s two-goal lead.
That set the stage for Galchenyuk’s goal at 14:25, bringing the roof off the Bell Centre and effectively ending Florida’s chances of staging a comeback.