Maple Leafs-Canadiens Preview

The Associated PressFebruary 28, 2014

Peter Budaj has done his best to fill in for injured goaltender Carey Price, helping the Montreal Canadiens earn three of a possible four points in back-to-back games coming out of the break.

He'll get a chance to continue making a difference Saturday night as the Canadiens host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Price was named the top goaltender of the Olympics after guiding Canada to the gold medal, but he aggravated a lower-body injury in Sochi and did not dress for the Canadiens (33-21-7) in their first two games after the break.

He'll get another night off Saturday, but will accompany the team when it leaves Sunday on a four-game road trip to Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix and San Jose.

"With the treatments he's getting, we're confident he will be back fairly soon," coach Michel Therrien said.

Budaj made 28 saves in Wednesday's 2-1 overtime loss to Detroit before stopping 27 shots and all three Pittsburgh shootout attempts in Thursday's 6-5 victory.

''He battled back in the second and third, and in the shootout he was outstanding,'' Therrien said. ''You can tell the bench guys wanted to battle back for him because he certainly worked hard."

Budaj has been outstanding in three career starts against the Maple Leafs, two of which have come in a Montreal uniform. He's won all three, allowing three goals and posting a .961 save percentage.

The Canadiens have been playing well no matter who has been in net recently, going 6-1-2 over their last nine. Daniel Briere scored two goals and added an assist Thursday, while Max Pacioretty finished with one of each.

"It's a fun way to win a game," Briere said. "I'm sure the coaches won't like that - all the goals scored against - but it's good for us. I know it sounds cliché, but what matters is we get a win. Our schedule is not easy. To come in here in Pittsburgh and get two points, that's huge for us."

Montreal sits in second place in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of Toronto (32-22-7) and Tampa Bay. Pacioretty scored twice and had an assist in the Canadiens' 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Nov. 30, but they've dropped the other two meetings.

James van Riemsdyk and Mason Raymond have scored for Toronto in each matchup, and van Riemsdyk netted the game-winning goal with 5:33 left in the third period of a 5-3 win Jan. 18. Raymond, Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul each had a goal and an assist in that contest.

Kessel and Lupul each scored Thursday against the New York Islanders, but Toronto blew a pair of third-period leads before falling 5-4 in overtime. It was the Maple Leafs' first contest after heading into the Olympic break on an 11-2-1 tear.

"We gave them three goals. You can't win in the NHL giving away three goals," coach Randy Carlyle said. "Gifts. Total gifts. We were fortunate to get a point.

"We had two one-goal leads in the third period. Those are the frustrating parts right now. "We'll just go back to work (Friday)."

Kessel, who scored five goals for Team USA in the Olympics, also added an assist on Paul Ranger's goal. Toronto, though, looked sluggish at times after the layoff.

"Mentally, we looked like we were going to out-skill the club we were playing against," Carlyle said. "They tried to grind it with us, and we didn't play anywhere near the grind game that we're capable of."

Jonathan Bernier made 30 saves. He's 1-1-0 with a 3.56 goals-against average in two starts against the Canadiens this season, while James Reimer stopped 34 shots in a 4-3 win Oct. 1.