Tkachuk's hat trick carries Panthers past Canadiens
MONTREAL (AP) — Matthew Tkachuk had his fifth career hat trick and one assist to lead the Florida Panthers to a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
With his second goal, Tkachuk became the fourth player in NHL history to have 100 or more points in consecutive seasons after changing teams in the offseason. He joined Wayne Gretzky (1987-88, 1988-89), Jimmy Carson (1987-88, 1988-89) and Mike Rogers (1980-81, 1981-82) in achieving the feat.
“It’s pretty cool, but it’s probably the last time I’ll ever be in the same sentence as (Gretzky),” Tkachuk said. “Very, very cool.”
For Florida coach Paul Maurice, Tkachuk is much more than a 100-point contributor.
“There’s no cheat in his game,” Maurice said. “Really good players anticipate and then good players cheat. There’s never any of that.
“He’s not trying to do things with the puck that are all offense with no understanding of the cost of the defensive game. ... If we could afford the minutes, we would have him kill penalties because he just gets it. He’s just such a bright man on the ice.”
Anton Lundell added two goals and one assist and Alex Lyon made 18 saves while helping the Panthers to its second win in a row and a season series sweep of Montreal.
With 83 points, the Panthers are one point behind Pittsburgh for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have one game in hand over Florida.
“Being able to get both (wins) was huge and we know where we’re at right now,” Tkachuk said. “We know how important these two points are each and every night."
Sean Farrell scored his first career goal and Rafael Harvey-Pinard had a goal for the Canadiens, who dropped their second in a row. Sam Montembeault made 25 saves.
Farrell opened the scoring 1:23 into the first period when the rookie took a shot from along the boards that was mishandled by Lyon and went in.
“It was a really cool moment, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Farrell said, adding that teammates Brendan Gallagher and Jake Evans saw it go in before he did. "I just reacted based off of them, so it was cool to share with those guys.”
Lundell tied it at 4:09 with his 11th of the season after Montembeault gave up a rebound off a shot by Tkachuk.
Tkachuk finished off a tic-tac-toe sequence with Brandon Montour and Sam Reinhart to give the Panthers a 2-1 edge 3:59 into the second on the power play.
Just under two minutes later, Tkachuk scored his second, beating Montembeault with a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle.
Tkachuk completed his hat trick with 20 seconds remaining with an empty-net goal.
NOTES: The Canadiens announced C Kirby Dach will miss at least one week with an upper-body injury. ... D David Savard (lower body) is day to day. Chris Wideman replaced him in the lineup.
Panthers: Head to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets on Saturday.
Canadiens: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://www.twitter.com/AP_Sports