Canadiens cruise into Stanley Cup play-offs with emphatic win over Panthers

The Montreal Canadiens clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 6-2 win against the Florida Panthers at Bell Centre on Thursday.

Paul Byron put Montreal up 1-0 in the first period with his 21st goal at 7:24.

Tomas Plekanec made it 2-0 at 10:04 with his ninth goal, and Brendan Gallagher got his third straight assist on Byron’s second goal of the game, his 22nd, at 13:19.

Reilly Smith scored his 15th goal at 10:14 of the second period to get Florida back in it at 3-1.

Max Pacioretty scored at 3:52 of the third period to make it 4-1.

Michael Matheson’s sixth goal made it 4-2 at 8:45 but Gallagher restored Montreal’s three-goal cushion at 5-2 at 12:55.

Phillip Danault increased the lead to 6-2 at 16:49 and that was all she wrote.

The result means the Canadiens, who missed the playoffs last season, lead the Ottawa Senators by six points for first place in the Atlantic Division and are now guaranteed of a post-season.

“It’s a good feeling,” The Canadiens’ Pacioretty said.

“You know, we’ve worked since the final buzzer went last year, this was what we made up our minds we had to do.

“And through all the adversity we’ve been able to come out and put together 77 good games.

“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished but now we’ve got to get down and try and clean up a couple of areas of our game that we know will make us successful in the playoffs.

“And it’s a good time for everyone to feel good about their game and we hope to go into the playoffs with some momentum and get everyone creating offense like we had tonight.”

All the other results from Thursday in the NHL can be seen below:

Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 Columbus Blue Jackets
Philadelphia Flyers 6-3 New York Islanders
Boston Bruins 2-0 Dallas Stars
Montreal Canadiens 6-2 Florida Panthers
Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 Detroit Red Wings
Minnesota Wild 5-1 Ottawa Senators
Nashville Predators 1-3 Toronto Maple Leafs
Winnipeg Jets 4-3 Anaheim Ducks
Edmonton Oilers 3-2 San Jose Sharks