The Vancouver Canucks got back on the winning track their last time out, picking up a much-needed two points as they continue their quest for the Western Conference’s top seed.
While the Montreal Canadiens have little chance to climb into the East playoff picture, they’re coming off a rare impressive effort of their own.
Seeking a two-game sweep of Montreal, Vancouver tries for a ninth victory in 10 home meetings in this series Saturday night.
After suffering back-to-back defeats in regulation that left them 1-2-2 in a five-game span, the Canucks (42-18-8) moved to within a point of conference-leading St. Louis with a 3-2 win over Winnipeg on Thursday. Ryan Kesler opened the scoring with a short-handed tally in the second period before Alexander Edler and Samuel Pahlsson scored the game’s final two goals.
“It was an important win for us, we wanted to get back in the ‘W’ column and I thought we came out of the gate really strong and we continued it,” Kesler told the team’s official website.
Kesler and the Canucks now look to carry that momentum into this matchup with Montreal (26-32-10). The Canadiens had been outscored 37-15 during an 0-7-1 slide in Vancouver before winning 3-2 on Feb. 22, 2011.
Montreal found itself on the verge of posting what would have been a second consecutive win over the Canucks on Dec. 8, but blew a three-goal lead and fell 4-3 in a shootout. Vancouver hasn’t defeated the Canadiens twice in a season since 2003-04.
Sitting at the bottom of the conference, Montreal won 5-3 at Edmonton on Thursday after going 1-7-0 in its last eight. Exactly one year after suffering a severe concussion and broken vertebra on a hit by Boston’s Zdeno Chara, Max Pacioretty was at his best, recording two goals and an assist.
Pacioretty, with five goals and three assists in four games this month, set a team record for goals in a season by an American-born player with his 30th.
“I’m happy that I could help him get to 30 goals,” said defenseman P.K. Subban, who scored and assisted on both of Pacioretty’s tallies. “I don’t know if that means I get dinner or something like that. For a guy that has already gone through so much in his career with the neck injury, it’s inspirational to see what he has done for our hockey club this year.”
The Canadiens’ postseason hopes are very slim, as the club would need to pass seven teams to earn a playoff spot with 14 games left.
“You play to win,” Subban said. “As far as the players in the dressing room go, you want to win every game and you want to compete. It’s your job to go out there and try to win every game.”
Montreal’s Peter Budaj turned away 24 shots Thursday in his 10th start of the season. Despite going 1-6-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average over his last seven games, Carey Price could be back in net Saturday.
Since allowing all of the goals in a 7-1 loss at Vancouver on Oct. 7, 2009, Price has gone 2-0-1 with a 1.62 GAA in the series.
Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo got the night off Thursday. He’s allowed at least three goals in five of his last six games, the exception being a 29-save shutout of the Blues on March 1.
Luongo had suffered three straight losses to the Canadiens before making 20 saves Dec. 8.