Resilient Panthers host Habs

SUNRISE, Fla. -- When NHL teams trail entering the third period, their chances of earning points by the end of the game are slim.

But the Florida Panthers are more resilient that most. They are 6-20-4 when trailing after two periods, and those 16 points in that situation leads the league, tied with the New Jersey Devils.

The Panthers trailed by two goals three times in their most recent game and still came up with a point, losing 5-4 in overtime Tuesday night at the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.

On Thursday night at the BB&T Center, the Panthers (32-25-7) will play host to the Montreal Canadiens (25-30-11).

The Panthers are two points out of the final playoff spot in the East. They are 19-9-3 at home and are coming off a game in which Nick Bjugstad scored his first career hat trick.

"Bjugstad was a monster," Panthers rookie coach Bob Boughner told the media. "He was taking pucks to the net and dragging people on his back.

"Since I have been here, that was the best game I've seen him play."

Bjugstad was humble about his hot streak, which includes 16 points in his past 16 games.

"It was just one of those games where the puck was finding my stick," he said. "It feels good. It would've been better with a win, but that's a good team (Tampa Bay)."

Montreal, meanwhile, has slumped badly this season, dragged down by a 9-20-3 road record.

"It's never fun to be in a losing atmosphere," Montreal forward Andrew Shaw told the media after his team fell behind 4-0 to the Devils in a 6-4 loss on Tuesday night. "Personally, it's been tough. But it's been tougher on the team.

"We're determined to finish the year strong. We're going to learn from this experience and get better. We're going to compete."

To make matters worse, the Canadiens are without star goalie Carey Price, who suffered a concussion on Feb. 20. His return is not expected to be imminent, although he is progressing.

Montreal could certainly use Price, especially with Florida's top line that includes All-Star center Aleksander Barkov, red-hot Bjugstad and Evgenii Dadonov. In fact, Barkov has points in seven straight games, including five goals and seven assists during that span.

Florida's second line is also dangerous with 2017 All-Star Vincent Trocheck at center and Jonathan Huberdeau as his main winger.

The Panthers have 16 power-play goals in their past 16 games, converting 28.1 percent with the man advantage during that stretch.

Florida also puts up plenty of shots, in all situations, including 49 against Tampa Bay. It was the 17th time this season the Panthers had shot the puck more than 40 times in a game.

"We have a resilient group," Boughner said. "We are finding ways to win or at least pick up points."

Updated March 8, 2018

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