Bennett scores twice in return, Panthers top shorthanded Canadiens 5-2

Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett takes a shot on goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Reaves) (Michael Reaves, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SUNRISE, Fla. – Sam Bennett scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves to lead the Florida Panthers past the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 on New Year’s Day in Sunrise.

It was Florida’s third straight win, with all coming on home ice.

Aleksander Barkov, Frank Vatrano and Mason Marchment also scored and Jonathan Huberdeau added three assists for the Panthers, who improved to 17-3 at home.

Huberdeau now has eight points over his past two games.

“It’s impressive,” Bennett said of Huberdeau’s recent scoring output. “He’s a heck of a player and I love playing with him.”

Sam Reinhart logged two assists for the Panthers, giving him an impressive 15 points in his last 13 games.

The win was Florida’s 17th at home, which leads the NHL by a wide margin (the closest team is Toronto with 13 home wins).

“I think they believe in themselves,” Panthers interim head coach Andrew Brunette said. “They know they’re a good team.”

Jonathan Drouin and Nick Suzuki scored for Montreal, which continued to be decimated by coronavirus issues, with 16 players in COVID-19 protocol.

The Canadiens were forced to play with only 18 skaters, including the two goalies.

Former Florida draft pick Sam Montembeault stopped 43 of 48 shots for the Habs in his first appearance against his old team.

Local 10 News’ David Dwork contributed to this story.

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