It’s hard to believe the East-leading Montreal Canadiens needed any confidence heading into Saturday night’s game against their archrivals, but they are feeling particularly good ahead of their first trip to Boston since eliminating the Bruins in Game 7 of last season’s conference semifinals.
Montreal (15-5-1) has won seven of eight, and bouncing back from Tuesday’s ugly 4-0 loss to Pittsburgh has re-instilled a positive vibe. Max Pacioretty scored twice as the Canadiens became only the second team to get more than three goals versus St. Louis in Thursday night’s 4-1 victory.
"These are statement games," winger P.A. Parentau told the team’s official website. "We had stretches where we struggled to score goals but we came in here tonight and scored four against a team which doesn’t give up many. That really helps our confidence going forward."
Pacioretty should be plenty confident – in Montreal’s two home wins over Boston this season, he totaled three goals and two assists as the Canadiens rung up 11 goals. Dale Wiese, who missed the first victory, contributed a goal and an assist in the most recent one – a 5-1 romp Nov. 13.
"I like where my game is right now," said Wiese, who scored his fourth goal in five games Thursday after having none through his first 13. "I’m finding ways to contribute offensively."
There have also been big contributions from Carey Price against the Bruins, whom he limited to one goal on 56 shots as the Canadiens won Games 6 and 7 of their second-round series. He also has won his last four regular-season starts versus Boston, including the two wins at Montreal in 2014-15, and his 19 lifetime victories are his most against any opponent.
If there is one area Montreal could improve, it’s the power play. Aside from a three-goal outburst in as many chances with the man advantage versus Philadelphia in a 6-3 win Nov. 15, the Habs have gone 1 for 36 in their other 14 games in the past month.
Boston (13-8-0) has yielded only one power-play goal in its last eight home games, and the Bruins have won six in a row at TD Garden while allowing eight goals.
They’ve won three straight overall after scrambling to a 4-3 shootout victory at Columbus on Friday night. The Bruins rallied from two down in the third and squandered a 3-2 lead, but Niklas Svedberg stonewalled all seven of the Blue Jackets’ shootout attempts before rookie Alexander Khokhlacev – making his NHL debut for the injured David Krejci – beat Sergei Bobrovsky.
"I was happy when I got called up," Khokhlacev said. "They just told me, ‘You need to fly to Columbus.’ They didn’t tell me if I would play or not until right at the end. It was really a good feeling."
Coach Claude Julien could stick with Svedberg despite No. 1 netminder Tuukka Rask being 6-1-0 with a 1.86 goals-against average and one shutout in seven November starts. That’s because Rask is 3-11-3 with a 2.80 GAA lifetime in the regular season versus the Canadiens and was pulled in the third period of a 6-4 loss at Montreal on Oct. 18 after giving up five goals on 23 shots.
Svedberg didn’t fare much better earlier this month against them, yielding five on 34 shots.