Solid defensive play and sharp goaltending have keyed the Montreal Canadiens' longest winning streak of the season.
The Canadiens look to win six straight for the first time in almost three years while trying to hand the visiting New York Islanders a third consecutive defeat Thursday night.
Montreal (11-4-1) has allowed 35 goals this season - fifth-fewest in the NHL - and two in its last four games after yielding 14 in the previous three. Carey Price and Peter Budaj have combined for a 2.09 goals-against average on the year and each has a shutout while splitting starts over the last four contests.
"Our defensemen are doing a good job of closing gaps and we're not giving up many secondary chances," said Price, who made 24 saves in Tuesday's 3-1 road victory over the New York Rangers. "It's the recipe."
Some timely offense also helped Tuesday even though the Canadiens recorded a season-low 18 shots on goal. Max Pacioretty tied the game late in the second period and rookie Alex Galchenyuk added the go-ahead goal early in the third to help Montreal to its fifth straight victory following an 0-2-1 stretch.
"We were just really focused on getting the win," said Galchenyuk, who has a team-best plus-9 rating.
Though the Canadiens are 0 for 12 on the power play in their last four games, they've killed off all 11 of their opponents' chances during that span.
"We're just doing our job, five in a row now," said Pacioretty, who has five points in his last three games. "We focus on everyone in this lineup contributing."
Montreal hopes that formula works again Thursday when it tries to win six in a row for the first time since March 6-16, 2010. In the midst of a three-game stretch versus the two New York teams, the Canadiens are 7-0-4 at home against the Islanders (6-9-1) since a 4-2 loss Feb. 3, 2007.
Pacioretty has five goals and an assist in his last five games in the series. He notched his only career hat trick in a 4-2 win on Long Island on Feb. 9, 2012.
New York has been outscored 10-1 in its last two contests after totaling nine goals while winning the previous two. The Islanders put 38 shots on net Tuesday, but only got Travis Hamonic's tally in a 3-1 loss at Ottawa.
Though New York has lost seven of nine, it was much more competitive against the Senators than during Monday's embarrassing 7-0 home loss to Philadelphia.
"It was encouraging to see guys play hard," goaltender Rick DiPietro told the Islanders' official website. "We played well.
"There's definitely some positives to take out of (the Ottawa game). But at this point, you need points and you need results. We have a couple more games on the road to get the wins that we're looking for."
Islanders star John Tavares has been held without a point in the last two games after recording seven goals and two assists in the previous five. He had a five-game point streak against the Canadiens snapped in the most recent meeting March 17, although New York won 3-2 in a shootout at the Bell Centre.
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