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Ben Chiarot, Florida Panthers get back after it in win over Canadiens

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New Florida Panthers defenseman Ben Chiarot moves the puck against former Montreal Canadiens teammate Christian Dvorak Thursday night at the Bell Center. — Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire

After not playing in almost a week — while adding three new players to the lineup — the Florida Panthers had to get rid of the “rust” on Thursday night as Ben Chiarot put it.

The Panthers found themselves down a goal less than 30 seconds into the game but controlled the play and got input from all three of the newcomers in a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Chiarot, who joined the team in Montreal after being acquired by the Panthers last week, was in the starting lineup against his former team and had the primary assist on Anthony Duclair’s goal which gave Florida a 3-2 lead.

In fact, all three of the new players hit the scoresheet: Claude Giroux had two assists with Chiarot and Robert Hagg each getting an assist.

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“It felt food,’’ said Chiarot, who remained in Montreal after the trade and practiced on his own at the Canadiens’ facility before meeting his new teammates for the first time Wednesday.

“The beginning was … breaking off the rust a little for myself and the team having not played in a while. Once we got going, I thought we controlled the puck really well and made some nice plays. You can see the skill this team has up front. It was a good game.”

Chiarot was given a loud ovation from the Bell Center crowd when he was shown on the video boards during the first period with him waving to them from his spot on the Florida bench.

After helping the Canadiens reach the Stanley Cup Finals last summer, this has been a tough year for the franchise and for the players in Montreal.

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Chiarot has a fresh start with the Panthers — and a chance for another deep playoff run.

“For me, it wasn’t just getting comfortable with the guys as much as it was getting back into the flow of a game,” said Chiarot, whose last game came March 13 against Giroux and the Flyers.

“For me, it has almost been two weeks which is a long time in the middle of a regular season. Just getting back in the flow felt good but by the second, third period, I felt like I was back to myself. …

“The team is excited. There’s a good swagger in the room, good energy. Guys are excited to play. Lot of good signs, and signs of a good team.”

While the Panthers were able to control the offensive flow of the game, the team did look a little out of synch as if was trying — at times — to do too much.

For a team which reportedly had its rookie dinner the night before, at least they did not fall flat on their collective face.

The game certainly did not start the way Florida had hoped it would.

Jonathan Huberdeau, who ended the night with two assists, took a roughing penalty 20 seconds in after getting into it with David Savard.

Nine seconds later, the Canadiens were up 1-0 off a power play strike from Nick Suzuki.

That lead did not last long.

At all.

After Giroux won the faceoff, Hagg fired a feed to a streaking Sasha Barkov who tied the score a mere seven seconds later.

Despite the hot start to the first, the goals subsided for the rest of the period.

Mason Marchment picked the scoring right back up 1:12 into the second, however, after Eetu Luostarinen forced a turnover and Marchment picked it up. Marchment then put his own rebound home to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead.

Jake Evans scored 4:47 later, deflecting a Mike Hoffman shot past Spencer Knight (28 saves) to tie it up.

Florida took the lead for good when Chiarot fired off a shot just over a minute later that Duclair tipped past Allen. There was some conversation among the officials in whether Duclair used a high-stick, but nothing came of it and the game went on.

”I did not look at it, but when I touched it, it felt like I was under the crossbar,” said Duclair, who now has 25 goals.

“I know it was close, for sure. It is what it is. I’m just happy it went in and I scored.”

Giroux picked up his second assist of the game in the third period by cycling the puck over to Huberdeau who found Sam Reinhart for a power play goal with 12:40 to go.

Paul Byron brought the Canadiens back within a goal with 3:40 to go, but the Panthers were able to hold on and get the victory.

”I thought they were good,” Andrew Brunette said of his new players. “It’s a hard situation to come into. Ben had no practices, only a morning skate. We knew that coming in it would take a little getting accustomed. But I thought they fit in well.

“It was nice to see them on the ice together and now we work on getting some rhythm and some chemistry with them.”

UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS 

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT OTTAWA SENATORS

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