Canadiens-Maple Leafs Preview


As the Toronto Maple Leafs cling to the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot, the Montreal Canadiens are trying to make a run at their archrivals for that position.

The Canadiens can match a season high with a fourth consecutive victory Saturday night and spoil Toronto's tribute to Mats Sundin.

The leading scorer in Maple Leafs history with 420 goals and 987 points, Sundin will have his No. 13 raised to the rafters in a pregame ceremony. He will be the 18th player in franchise history to have his number retired.

Toronto hopes the emotion in the building can help carry the team to a much-needed win. The Maple Leafs (28-21-6) open a three-game trip to Western Canada following this matchup, which comes after back-to-back road losses left them one point ahead of Washington for eighth place in the East.

Montreal remains closer to the bottom of the conference than a playoff berth, but the Canadiens have climbed within nine points of Toronto thanks to a three-game winning streak.

Even the Catholic church in Montreal is trying to boost the Canadiens (22-24-9), recently placing an ad in local newspapers asking fans to pray for the team to reach the postseason.

"Montreal is a beautiful place, we just have to keep winning," center Scott Gomez said. "That's the bottom line."

A former 30-goal scorer, Gomez notched his first in more than a year Thursday while Max Pacioretty had a hat trick in a 4-2 road win over the New York Islanders.

"I'm happy for the team, obviously for Pac with three goals and Gomer for getting that gorilla off his back," said Carey Price, who made 31 saves. "And it sure is nice to string a few wins together."

Price is a big reason why that's happened, starting all three games during the winning streak and allowing four goals.

He's also surrendered four over his last three starts at Toronto, winning twice. The most recent came Jan. 21, when he made 32 saves in a 3-1 victory. Price was in net as Montreal lost the other two meetings this season - both in October.

The Leafs had been on a 5-0-1 run before suffering regulation losses by one goal in each of their last two games - at Winnipeg and Philadelphia.

They trailed after the first period for the first time in six games Thursday in a 4-3 loss to the Flyers.

"We coughed up the puck too much," coach Ron Wilson said. "We worked so hard to make it 2-2. We just have to learn from it."

Tyler Bozak had two goals, Joffrey Lupul scored one and Phil Kessel had two assists as all three forwards extended their point streaks to four games. Kessel has four goals and five assists during that span, Bozak has been nearly as hot with four goals and three assists, and Lupul has totaled six points.

Pacioretty is clearly the hottest Montreal player with 10 goals in the past 12 games. However, he's gone pointless in three meetings with the Leafs this season and has no goals in four career games in Toronto.

Montreal owns the league's least effective power play (12.7 percent) and is facing a Leafs team that has killed off all 28 of its opponents' power plays in 2012 - a span of 17 games.