Takeaways as Sergei Bobrovsky dominates again and Florida Panthers rout Canadiens

Sergei Bobrovsky capped a stellar November with a pair of stellar outings in Canada.

His final effort before the calendar flips to December: A 21-save performance in the Florida Panthers’ 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday at Centre Bell.

In 11 November starts, Bobrovsky went 8-3-0 with a .918 save percentage (259 saves on 282 shots). He held opponents to three goals or fewer in 10 of those 11 games.

“The guys did a great job in front of me,” Bobrovsky said, “so I have to complement their game, be focused and step up when needed.”

The Panthers improve to 14-7-2 and went 2-0-1 on this three-game Canada road trip. Florida opened the trip with a 5-0 win over the Ottawa Senators on Monday before losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in a shootout on Tuesday.

Montreal falls to 10-11-2.

Bobrovsky began the trip with a 20-save shutout against Ottawa and continued his dominance in net against Montreal.

He stopped the first 20 shots he faced Thursday before Montreal broke up the shutout with 10:30 left to play as Johnathan Kovacevic’s shot bounced off Bobrovsky’s extended glove and into the net.

“He stood on his head,” forward Evan Rodrigues said. “He made the timely saves and we’ve done a great job, especially our [defensemen] boxing out in front and letting him see the puck. When he sees it, he’s gonna make those saves.”

By the time Bobrovsky gave up that one goal, the Panthers were well on there way to the win.

Aleksander Barkov opened scoring 7:07 into the second period with a snap shot from the left circle while on an odd-man rush with Sam Reinhart.

Sam Bennett doubled Florida’s lead eight seconds into the third period off a Montreal turnover in the neutral zone off the faceoff for his third goal of the season and first that wasn’t on the power play or on an empty net. Rodrigues and Carter Verhaeghe also scored in the opening six minutes of the third period to push the Panthers’ lead out to 4-0 before Montreal scored midway through the period.

Rodrigues’ goal was his first since Nov. 8. Verhaeghe’s was his 10th of the season.

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, for good measure, added a fifth goal with 10.9 seconds left to cap scoring.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

Nov 30, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens with his teammates during the second period at Bell Centre.
Nov 30, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens with his teammates during the second period at Bell Centre.

Aleksander Barkov likes scoring against Montreal

Barkov’s second-period goal wasn’t only the 250th of his NHL career. It was also his 23rd career goal in 32 games against Montreal. That’s by far the most among any opponent Barkov has faced.

The next closest: 14 goals, which he has done against both the Carolina Hurricanes (34 games) and Detroit Red Wings (39 games).

Overall, Barkov, who also had an assist on Rodrigues’ third-period goal, has 43 points against Montreal (23 goals, 20 assists), also the most against a single opponent. The Canadiens are one of two teams against whom Barkov has scored at least 40 points. The Red Wings are the other — he has 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists) in 39 games against Detroit (14 goals, 28 assists).

Panthers keep killing penalties

Obviously the Panthers would rather stay out of the penalty box, but Florida once again showed just how dominant its penalty kill unit has been.

The Panthers were a perfect 6 for 6 on the penalty kill Thursday. They held opponents scoreless on all 18 power-play opportunities during this three-game road trip and are a perfect 26 for 26 over the past six games.

Time to come home

After three games in four days in Canada, the Panthers will play their next three games at home.

The stretch at Amerant Bank Arena starts Saturday against the New York Islanders, continues Wednesday against the Dallas Stars and ends Dec. 8 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.