Canadiens, Blue Jackets on rolls heading into matchup
MONTREAL — For the first time in 51 days, the Montreal Canadiens have won consecutive games. Now they’ll look to go streaking.
After turning a 3-1 third-period deficit into a 4-3 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils on Monday, the Canadiens have a chance to add to their slim Atlantic Division lead when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
Monday’s victory combined with an Ottawa Senators loss allowed Montreal to add a touch of distance between their nearest pursuant, with four points separating the two clubs.
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While the Canadiens have struggled offensively, there has been one constant: Max Pacioretty. The Habs captain has 13 points in 12 games in February after scoring a pair of goals — including the tying tally — against New Jersey. His 31 goals trail only Sidney Crosby and his six multi-goal games are one back of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand’s total.
“I told him that if you lead by example, you’re going to be respected by all your teammates and that’s the kind of leadership I could live with and appreciate,” coach Claude Julien said of Pacioretty, who hit the 30-goal mark for the fourth straight season and the fifth time in his nine-year career. “That’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s leading by example and we need that from him. He’s done a great job.”
The Canadiens could use offense from others not named Pacioretty and perhaps might be seeing a turnaround from Alex Galchenyuk. The 23-year-old struggled in his return from a knee injury but has now scored in consecutive games for the first time since mid-November.
“I feel much better these last two games. I’ve found my rhythm,” he told reporters after the game.
The Columbus Blue Jackets arrive in Montreal appearing to have found their rhythm as well of late. While most teams have struggled coming out of the bye week, John Tortorella’s squad returned with a bang, following up a 7-0 pasting of the New York Islanders on Saturday with a 5-2 decision over the New York Rangers on Sunday.
“Coming off a break, and playing six periods like we have … you need to feel good about your team, and I do,” Tortorella told the Columbus Dispatch. “We talked a lot about that five-day break, about wetting our pants, about ‘what are we gonna look like?’ We’ve probably played six of our best periods of the year.”
The Blue Jackets are hoping that translates into a three-game winning streak, something the club hasn’t experienced since its franchise record 16-game win streak. But the wins have been coming recently, with four in their last five games.
Fourteen different players recorded points in Columbus’ last two games and seven players scored at least once. That includes Cam Atkinson, who is one goal shy of hitting the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career and, with 53 points, is one shy of setting a personal best.
It’s the third and final regular-season meeting between the two teams and Columbus’ lone visit to Montreal. The Blue Jackets have won both games so far but will be facing Carey Price for the first time.