On a night in which a great goalie was honored, Chris Driedger was pretty good, too, making 33 saves and leading the host Florida Panthers to a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
Prior to the game, the Panthers retired former goalie Roberto Luongo’s No. 1 jersey. Luongo, who is third in NHL history with 489 wins, became the first player in Panthers history to have his number retired.
Saturday’s game was scoreless midway through the second period but then Lucas Wallmark, Mackenzie Weegar, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman scored for the Panthers, and Driedger, 25, improved to 6-2-1 in just his 10th career start.
For Wallmark, it was his first goal as a member of the Panthers. It was also just his sixth game since he was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 24.
This game was selected for Luongo’s ceremony because he is a Montreal native. Luongo retired after last season.
The star-studded goalie matchup of Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky against Montreal’s Carey Price - which would’ve been expected less than one week ago — never happened. Bobrovsky is out due to a lower-body injury, and Price was rested.
Due to injury, Driedger didn’t play from Jan. 17 until he came back on Thursday. But he has been sharp since returning, allowing just three goals in two games.
Montreal backup Charlie Lindgren, who played well early before faltering, made 27 saves.
Florida opened the scoring with 10:22 gone in the second. Wallmark faked a shot from the left circle and drove to the net, finishing by flipping a backhander over Lindgren’s left pad.
Lindgren allowed a soft goal with 41 seconds expired in the third as Weegar shot a fluttering puck past him from above the left circle.
Florida made it 3-0 with 15:47 left in the third as Erik Haula’s brilliant pass from deep in the right corner found Huberdeau right in front for a tap-in goal.
With 11:56 left in the third, Evans roofed a hard shot from the right circle, and it zipped past Driedger to spoil his shutout attempt.
But Hoffman’s empty-net goal with 1:54 ended Montreal’s comeback thoughts.