MONTREAL (AP) - Wojtek Wolski carried the Florida Panthers to a big lead in the division on a night their closest rival lost.
Wolski scored in regulation and added the only goal of the shootout to help the Florida Panthers boost their playoff hopes with a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
That left the Panthers five points clear of the Capitals, who lost 5-1 to Buffalo for first place in the Southeast Division with a game in hand, watching the scoreboard nightly as the playoffs approach.
``Let's not kid ourselves, I think we're a doing that right now on both sides of the ledger,' Dineen said. ``Everybody's looking at what's happening around the league.
``That was a nice win for us. And I give Buffalo credit. That's a team that was counted out three weeks ago and it's amazing the difference.'
Mikael Samuelsson also scored in regulation for Florida, which outshot Montreal 36-29. The Panthers ended a three-game winless streak and completed a four-game sweep of the season series with Montreal.
``We worked hard,' Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth said. ``It's a question of handling pressure at the right moment.'
Erik Cole and Louis Leblanc scored for the already-eliminated Canadiens, who have only one win in their last six games.
Trailing 2-1 in the third, Samuelsson tied the game with 7:12 to go when his long wrist shot sailed untouched past Carey Price.
The Panthers got on the board first when Wolski picked up a loose puck at his blue-line, skated down the right side and beat Price with a shot over his glove and off the crossbar with 6:56 left in the first.
Montreal tied it only 56 seconds later on a power play, with Max Pacioretty banking a puck off goalie Scott Clemmensen to Cole, who had an open side of the net to shoot at.
The Panthers outshot Montreal 13-4 in the middle period, but the Canadiens got the only goal as Frederic St. Denis took advantage of a turnover and sent Leblanc in alone to score only his fifth goal in 37 games.
``You don't critique wins too bad,' Dineen said. ``I really liked our bite in the third period when we were down. We were tenacious and confident. We just kept pushing.'
Florida began a four-game road trip that also takes them to Minnesota, Columbus and Detroit.
``We're in the driver's seat and we want to tighten our grip a bit,' said Clemmensen, who started in goal in place of regular No. 1 Jose Theodore. ``In a perfect world, we could go into Washington next week and have a big cushion and take that pressure off ourselves.
Notes: Although the games are considered sellouts, there have been large numbers of empty seats at recent games in the Bell Centre. ... The Panthers sat out John Madden, Krystopher Barch, Mike Santorelli, Keaton Ellerby and Jack Skille.
The Associated Press News Service
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