Hurricanes-Canadiens Preview

The Associated Press

The Montreal Canadiens are back in control of the Northeast Division, while the Carolina Hurricanes are right back in the race for the Southeast title.

Montreal goes for a third straight win and first season sweep of the Carolina franchise Monday night.

After grabbing the division lead from Boston - and avoiding a third consecutive loss - with a 6-5 shootout victory over the Bruins on Wednesday, the Canadiens (22-7-5) defeated the New York Rangers 3-0 on Saturday.

Carey Price stopped 34 shots while defenseman P.K. Subban set up goals by Michael Ryder, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher.

"We all want the same thing - the two points," Subban, who has 21 points in his last 18 games, told the Canadiens' official website. "We have 14 games left and we just want to focus on finishing strong and getting ready for the postseason."

That's also the case for the Hurricanes (16-15-2), but unlike Montreal, they're in chase mode. Carolina, though, is only four points behind division-leading Winnipeg - with three games in hand - and is also in a tight battle for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Hurricanes ended a season-worst seven-game skid in timely fashion Saturday, beating the Jets 3-1.

"We needed to catch this team and win this game,'' said captain Eric Staal, who had a goal and set up another.

Coach Kirk Muller, though, prefers to keep the pressure off his club at this point.

"For us it was more, if we can be a good hockey team for 16 games that's what we're after," he said.

The Hurricanes need more solid efforts in net from Justin Peters with Dan Ellis and Cam Ward nursing injuries. Peters turned aside 34 shots Saturday after getting beat four times in each of his previous three starts.

"I try to take the same approach every game and give my best effort every night," he said.

Peters wasn't at his best March 7 in a 4-2 home loss to Montreal. Carolina had won a season-best four in a row, but Price made 41 saves.

Price didn't play in a 3-0 home win over Carolina on Feb. 18 due to the flu, but he should be in net for a second consecutive game Monday.

"To be honest, I thought (Saturday) was a pretty routine game for him,'' Subban said of Price, third in the NHL with 17 wins.

Alexander Semin and Staal could make this contest a little more challenging for Price. Semin has recorded a goal and an assist in each of the first two games of Carolina's three-game trip, while Staal has also scored in each contest and has 19 points in his past 15 contests.

Both players, though, are scoreless against Montreal this season.

Gallagher, second among NHL rookies with 11 goals and the team leader with six at home, has scored in two straight contests. He did not play the last time the Hurricanes were in town due to a concussion.

Montreal's best record in this season series was 7-0-0 with one tie in 1981-82 and 1983-84, when the Hurricanes were the Hartford Whalers and the teams played in the Adams Division.

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