No matter the goaltender or the forward stepping up with a multi-goal game, the Montreal Canadiens are finding ways to put together an impressive season-opening road trip.
They can complete it with a perfect record Tuesday night against Pittsburgh, with the Penguins seeking their first win in their home opener after struggling through two games out west.
The Canadiens (3-0-0) beat Toronto and Boston before Sunday’s 3-1 win over Ottawa as Mike Condon gave Carey Price a break and made 20 saves in his NHL debut. They also won three straight to start last season but haven’t taken their first four since 1977-78 on their way to a third of four straight Stanley Cups.
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Tomas Plekanec scored twice in the first period against the Senators after Max Pacioretty did the same against the Maple Leafs and Lars Eller had two versus the Bruins.
"It’s good," Plekanec said of the spotlight changing from game to game. "We know we have a good team. … We played well first and third period. The second wasn’t our best. When we play well, we’re a good team."
If there’s anywhere to improve, it’s probably on the power play after an 0-for-7 effort dropped Montreal to 1 for 14 for the season. It finished 23rd a season ago at 16.5 percent, but it sounds like there’s little concern the club will come around with the man advantage.
"It’s one thing we’ve got to work on, but it’s the beginning of the season," said Plekanec, who has three goals in the last two games. "We’ll have more practice time to go over that and focus on it a little bit more, and I’m sure we’ll be fine."
Price figures to return after starting the first two games and posting a 1.50 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. He’s struggled against Pittsburgh, though, with a 3.42 GAA and .888 mark over a 2-4-2 span.
The series has followed suit with the Penguins (0-2-0) going 9-2-2 with 3.54 goals per game since the start of 2011-12.
Pacioretty has eight goals and five assists in his last 12 games against Pittsburgh, while Sidney Crosby has scored in six of his last eight in the series.
He and the Penguins, however, have been nearly silent this season. Phil Kessel scored in Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Arizona, but the Pittsburgh newcomer’s goal stands as the team’s only tally.
"Right now it’s loose-puck battles and work ethic," coach Mike Johnston said. "When you’re playing a game like this, you know that’s a pure staple of the game."
There wasn’t an assist on Kessel’s goal, so the team has one point. Dating to last postseason, the Penguins have gone five straight games without scoring more than a goal.
"We need to get our working boots on for the next few games," said forward Patric Hornqvist, who hasn’t scored in six career games against the Canadiens. "We can’t go for swings (on shots); we have to stop the puck and get ready. We were the better team in the last period (Saturday), but we couldn’t find the net, and that can’t happen."
The Penguins haven’t gone winless in three to start a season since they were 0-4-4 in 2005-06, and they haven’t gone without a point through three games since beginning 2001-02 with four losses.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who was around for the more recent of those two, made 37 saves against the Coyotes. The veteran is 8-2-2 with a 2.34 GAA against Montreal since the start of 2011-12.