Rangers-Canadiens Preview

TOM CASTRO (STATS Senior Editor)
The Associated Press

The Montreal Canadiens have surged to the top of the Northeast Division with some of their best hockey of the season, though they're coming off a rare disappointing effort.

They also played far from their best earlier this week, but still earned a win over the New York Rangers.

Montreal looks to get back on track with a seventh straight home victory over the Rangers on Saturday night.

The Canadiens (11-4-2) had their season-high five-game winning streak snapped Thursday, though they managed to pick up a point in a 4-3 overtime home loss to the Islanders. Montreal led 2-0 after one period and 3-2 going into the third, but seemed to fade in the final 20 minutes of regulation when it was outshot 8-4.

"We got completely away from our game plan," said forward Max Pacioretty, who scored twice and has four goals in a three-game streak. "They saw an opportunity and they walked all over us. It's embarrassing to be up like that and get away from our game plan so much."

The Canadiens hadn't allowed a power-play goal in four games but gave up two in four chances, allowing the Islanders to rally. Montreal has been short-handed 78 times, among the most in the league.

"I don't think it's so much discipline as much as not killing the penalties that hurts us," goaltender Carey Price said. "We have to figure out a way to bail our guys out (when they take penalties). They scored two power-play goals; that's a momentum changer."

Pacioretty provided just that Tuesday at Madison Square Garden when he scored late in the second period to erase the Rangers' 1-0 lead. Montreal went on to get two more goals in the third for a sluggish 3-1 victory, which was the Canadiens' second game of a back-to-back and third in four nights.

That was Montreal's third win in four overall matchups, and the Canadiens have been even more dominant in recent home meetings with New York. Montreal has outscored the Rangers 19-3 in the past five wins at the Bell Centre and gone 8-0-1 in the last nine games in the series there.

New York (8-6-2) continued to struggle with inconsistency in its last contest Thursday, falling 3-2 in a shootout at Ottawa after taking a 2-1 lead late in the third period. The Rangers have dropped two in a row and three of four, though they're 4-1-2 in the past seven.

The Rangers were without star forward Rick Nash, who will miss his third straight game with an undisclosed injury.

"I'm glad we got a point. .... Our full lineup (still isn't) playing so we've got to keep grinding away until we get people playing and try to grab points when we can," coach John Tortorella said.

The Rangers gave up a power-play goal for the first time in 18 chances and six games, and also allowed their first short-handed goal of the season.

"You've got to be happy with our third (period) and the way we came back and way we responded, and that's what we have to take into Montreal," said captain Ryan Callahan, who scored on the power play and in the shootout.

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