Brian Gionta scored twice — including Montreal’s second empty-net goal — and Jaroslav Halak came within 3:36 of recording a shutout, leading the Canadiens to a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers last night at Montreal.
Florida left wing David Booth left early in the second period after he was flattened by Jaroslav Spacek’s open-ice shoulder check to the head.
Booth’s latest blow to the head appears to have been less damaging than the devastating — and rule-changing — blind-side hit he was dealt by Philadelphia’s Mike Richards earlier this season.
Booth was to spend last night in a Montreal hospital for precautionary reasons.
“He’s coherent, he’s alert — the tests have come back negative, in a positive sense, so to speak,’’ said Panthers GM Randy Sexton, who expects Booth will be able to travel with the team to Ottawa today.
Booth, who missed 45 games after he sustained a concussion on Richards’s blind-side hit in Philadelphia Oct. 24, lay face down on the ice after Spacek’s hit 1:10 into the second and trainer Dave Zenobi was immediately summoned to attend to him. A bloodstain remained on the ice after Booth was helped off the ice to the dressing room.
“I think he was just looking back to grab the puck,’’ Panthers right wing Nathan Horton said. “It wasn’t a dirty hit, I don’t think, but it was just a tough one. He kind of surprised him in stepping up and it was just unfortunate. We don’t really know what happened but we hope for the best and hopefully it’s not too bad.’’
Booth was taken to hospital as a precaution after he was examined by Canadiens physician David Mulder.
Halak, who made 23 saves, lost his bid for a shutout when Radek Dvorak scored 16:24 into the third to draw Florida to 2-1.
Maple Leafs 2, Thrashers 1 — Mikhail Grabovski’s tip-in 39 seconds into overtime gave Toronto the victory, damaging host Atlanta’s playoff hopes.
Ondrej Pavelec stopped 28 shots for Atlanta, but couldn’t prevent Grabovski’s winning shot. Grabovski punched in a shot by Dion Phaneuf past Pavelec’s catching glove.
Islanders 3, Flames 2 — Matt Moulson and Bruno Gervais scored third-period goals in host New York’s comeback victory.
Gervais blasted a point shot past a screened Miikka Kiprusoff on a power play with 8:29 left. Moulson scored his team-leading 27th goal in the period, and Trent Hunter had his first goal since Jan. 19 to help the Islanders snap a three-game losing streak.
Predators 4, Coyotes 3 — David Legwand scored the shootout winner in host Nashville’s victory over Phoenix.
Steve Sullivan, Patric Hornqvist, and Dan Hamhuis scored for Nashville in regulation, and Lee Stempniak, Wojtek Wolski, and Keith Yandle scored for Phoenix.
Blues 3, Kings 1 — T.J. Oshie scored his first goal in 10 games, and B.J. Crombeen and Paul Kariya also scored in St. Louis’s victory over visiting Los Angeles.
Chris Mason stopped 30 shots for the Blues, eight points behind eighth-place Detroit in the race for the eight Western Conference playoff spots.
Sharks 3, Stars 0 — Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves for his 50th career shutout, and host San Jose clinched a playoff berth while climbing back atop the Western Conference standings with a victory over Dallas.
Defensemen Dan Boyle and Rob Blake scored power-play goals in the second period for San Jose, which has won two straight after a 0-5-1 skid.
Rangers 4, Devils 3 — Chris Drury scored the tying goal with 16.5 seconds left in regulation and Erik Christensen had the only tally in the shootout as visiting New York gave its playoff hopes a boost.
Hurricanes 3, Capitals 2 — Chad LaRose scored in the fifth round of a shootout to give host Carolina the victory over Washington.
Blue Jackets 8, Blackhawks 3 — Antoine Vermette had two goals and an assist, and the host Columbus scored four second-period goals to hand Chicago its worst loss of the season.
Wild 4, Flyers 3 — Kyle Brodziak scored in overtime to give Minnesota the victory in Philadelphia.