Dadonov and McCann power Panthers past Canadiens

Evgenii Dadonov and Jared McCann both scored a pair of goals as the Panthers handled the Canadiens for a 5-2 victory.

MONTREAL — Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo said Max Domi‘s sucker punch on Aaron Ekblad was “gutless.”

Domi was given a match penalty for punching Ekblad right in the nose in the third period of Wednesday’s pre-season game between Montreal and Florida, which the Panthers won 5-2.

Ekblad left the game, at the league’s request, and did not return. He went through tests after the game and has since cleared concussion protocol.

“I’m sure the league will look at it and we definitely won’t forget about it,” said Luongo, who played the first two periods. “You don’t do that. You respect your opponents and if your opponent doesn’t want to engage in a fight, there’s no reason to drop your glove and punch him square in the face.

“Bit of a gutless play. You don’t do those types of things.”

With the Canadiens losing 2-1 at the start of the third period, Domi began tugging on Ekblad’s shirt, asking him to fight. With the Panthers star showing no interest to drop the gloves, Domi punched him in the face twice, but still Ekblad didn’t respond. That’s when Domi dropped his right glove and sucker punched him right on the nose.

The bloodied Ekblad dropped to the ice. Domi was given a minor, major and match penalty on the play.

“NHL Player Safety will review it. It’s in their hands now,” said Panthers coach Bob Boughner. “We had a delayed penalty and Ekblad was just trying to stay out of it. I didn’t expect that he was going to drop his glove and sucker punch him.”

Added Mike Hoffman: “I guess they were trying to showcase something over there. It’s pre-season, so maybe guys are trying to make an impression. But maybe do it by playing hockey.”

The Canadiens saw the altercation a little differently.

“The two were arguing with one another,” said Jonathan Drouin. “I saw a pretty big slash from Ekblad on Max, and Max just took matters into his own hands. It’s also Ekblad’s fault for not protecting himself.”

Meanwhile coach Claude Julien said “these are things that happen in a hockey game.”

When play resumed, Jared McCann made it 3-1 at 10:57 of the third after driving hard to the net and cashing in his own rebound. The 2014 first-round draft pick added his second exactly two minutes later.

Nikita Scherbak got one back for Montreal at 15:58 before Nick Bjugstad scored in the empty net with 52 seconds left in the game.

The Panthers dressed several of their NHL regulars, including Aleksander Barkov, Hoffman, Jonathan Huberdeau, Ekblad and Keith Yandle.

Montreal’s lineup featured a large number of prospects.

Evgenii Dadonov scored his first of the game at 4:32 of the first period on an odd-man rush for the Panthers. The 29-year-old Russian added his second at 11:07, on the power play.

Matthew Peca cut the deficit in half with a power-play marker of his own at 13:19. The centreman, making his first pre-season appearance as a Canadien, was lucky to have his shot bounce off two Florida players’ skates and in past Luongo.

Also making his Habs pre-season debut, newly added centre Nick Suzuki got an assist on Peca’s goal.

Carey Price played the first half of the game, stopping 20 of 22 shots. Antti Niemi made 16 saves on 18 shots in relief.

Notes: Barkov became Florida’s 10th captain in franchise history earlier this week. … Max Domi’s father Tie Domi was in attendance at the Bell Centre.

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