Canadiens\' Michael Ryder, right, celebrates with Christopher Higgins, and Maxim Lapierre, left, after scoring. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Luis M. Alvarez
SUNRISE, Fla. - The Montreal Canadiens gave their South Florida fans one impressive hat trick.
Guillaume Latendresse, Michael Ryder and Christopher Higgins scored on the first three shots of the game and the Montreal Canadiens went on to a 5-1 win over the Panthers on Friday night in front of the largest home crowd in Florida history.
Many of the 19,838 fans were there to support the Canadiens, and they saw Montreal's first win over Florida in six games, after Florida had been 5-0-1 against Montreal the past two seasons.
Craig Anderson came on to replace Tomas Vokoun after the third goal came 5:03 into the game.
"We came out ready to play and took it to them, and that's so important in this league when you are on the road," said Cristobal Huet, who stopped 40 shots for Montreal. "You want to establish yourself in the other team's building. It was definitely a luxury to get that advantage and to get them rattled a little."
Guillaume Latendresse put Montreal up just 1:42 into the game when Roman Hamrlik dug the puck from the boards and sent it cross-ice. Latendresse was waiting just to the right of the crease and swatted the puck behind Vokoun for his 11th goal of the season.
Ryder connected at 4:50 on a nice pass from Higgins.
"You don't expect to see that play develop like that, but I was pretty much wide open and he passed it to me perfectly so I better not have missed," Ryder said with a smile.
Just 13 seconds later, Higgins sent a slap shot from the left circle through Vokoun's legs. The Panthers didn't have a shot until midway through the period.
"It's not too often that something like that happens," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. "We went on the attack and took advantage of some early lapses on their part. They have been a tough team against us, so to start fast like that was a big difference in the game."
Vokoun returned to open the second period and gave up a goal to Tom Kostopoulos at 9:55. Mark Streit stole the puck along the right boards after Vokoun had tried to clear it and sent it toward the slot, and Kostopoulos was able to go around Vokoun to make it 4-0.
Anderson played in goal for Florida in the third period.
"This is not figure-skating," Vokoun said. "You don't get points for looking good. It's about winning and if you start a game the way we started it's tough to win."
Florida avoided its first shutout of the season when Olli Jokinen flicked the puck over Huet's stick at 10:21 of the third for his 20th of the year and Streit added a power-play goal at 16:57.
Florida had won four of five and entered on a high the night after snapping a 10-0-1 streak in Atlanta at Philips Arena.
"The first five minutes we weren't ready and they capitalized on our mistakes," Jokinen said. "It's kind of funny when you start winning you start earning respect around the league and teams are going to be ready. We have to realize that. ... It's not like in the years before the lockout when teams were coming here for vacations and we'd surprise them and beat them."
Notes : Florida recalled D Martin Lojek from Rochester of the AHL prior to Friday's game. ... Montreal only had six shots in the opening period. ... Vokoun gave up four goals on the first six shots he faced overall.