MONTREAL — When the Montreal Canadiens take to the ice Thursday night, they’ll try to realize a feat they haven’t been able to pull off in nearly two months: Win consecutive games.
After picking up their first victory under new coach Claude Julien on Tuesday, the Canadiens look for back-to-back wins for the first time since a four-game win streak in the first week of January when they host the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre.
“It’s a great feeling, but I think overall it’s a great feeling for the whole team,” Julien said after his team’s 3-2 shootout win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. “We needed this win. It’s been tough. Playing the way we did tonight encourages us to play that way moving on.
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“It wasn’t the perfect game, but our compete level was good. And when your compete level is good, you have a chance to win the hockey game.”
Julien, who coaches his 1,000th NHL game Thursday, has had just three full practices and one morning skate with his new squad, which owns a two-point lead on the Ottawa Senators for the Atlantic Division lead. But while he tries to get his system and directives in place, he’ll be able to count on one certainty: Carey Price looking like Carey Price.
The week off appears to be just what the Canadiens goaltender needed as he snapped a run of allowing at least three goals in five straight contests. He looked especially the part against the Rangers, highlighted by a miraculous diving stop in the final seconds of overtime.
“All the stuff we’ve been doing in practice, it’s reinforcing everything the coach is telling us to get a win against a very good Rangers hockey team on the road,” Paul Byron said. “It can give us a lot of confidence.”
The Islanders arrive in Montreal in the early stages of a franchise-record nine-game road trip. With a 3-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, the team continued its strong play under interim coach Doug Weight and is 11-4-2 since he took over on Jan. 17.
That’s allowed the Islanders to climb the standings and into the thick of the hunt for a playoff spot.
“Obviously each game, each points are huge, especially with these teams that you’re battling with and trying to create some separation and to climb the ladder,” captain John Tavares told the team’s website. “They’re all important, but always a good feeling starting with the first one and get some confidence.”
While New York finished the game with two points, it also found itself down two forwards. Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas missed the third period because of injury.
Tuesday’s game marked Clutterbuck’s first since Feb. 3 after being sidelined by a lower-body injury and according to Newsday, it’s that same injury that cut his return short. Cizikas’ departure was due to “an apparent hand injury,” per Newsday.
It’s the third and final regular season meeting and third different coaching matchup.