The Montreal Canadiens snapped their worst losing streak of the season last time out.
Now, the Canadiens will try to improve their standing in the Eastern Conference playoff race as they host the stumbling Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
Montreal (30-25-6) beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on Sunday to end a six-game losing streak. The Canadiens came one loss shy of tying their longest slide since the 1939-40 season.
The win also moved Montreal into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens had dropped from fourth place to ninth in the standings while going 8-17-1 since Dec. 23.
Jaroslav Halak provided the Canadiens with a spark Sunday in his first NHL start. Halak, called up Friday from Hamilton of the AHL where he led the league with a 2.00 goals-against average, stopped 31 shots and held Columbus scoreless until midway through the third period.
“When you see your goalie with that much confidence in his first game it lets you settle down too,” said defenseman Sheldon Souray, who had an assist. “We had to come in here and get a good effort.”
Halak took the roster spot of starting goalie Cristobal Huet, who underwent hamstring surgery on Sunday and will be sidelined indefinitely. Montreal’s other netminder, David Aebischer, is 10-10-3 with a 2.94 goals-against average in 26 appearances.
“We were looking for a good performance and he gave it to us,” coach Guy Carbonneau said of Halak.
“Those plays worked out tonight,” said Koivu, whose goal was his first in 12 games. “We got two nice goals, which was a turning point in the second period.”
The Capitals (23-27-9), meanwhile, have dropped three straight, including Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh. Star forward Alexander Ovechkin did not record a point and has just one goal and one assist in his last seven games.
Before his slump, Ovechkin was leading the NHL in goals. The Capitals, who have dropped 12 of their last 16 games, have been held to two or fewer goals in nine of their last 12 games.
“When Ovechkin gets only one goal in seven games, it’s tough to win,” coach Glen Hanlon said. “Don’t mistake that—it’s not his fault we’re not winning. But if you’re asking where the offense has gone, he’s a big part of that.”
The Capitals beat the Canadiens 5-1 at home on Jan. 4, ending a three-game losing streak in the series.