Impressive scoring depth and strong goaltending are key reasons why the Montreal Canadiens are atop the Eastern Conference, and on the verge of their longest winning streak of the season.
The Canadiens seek a fifth consecutive victory Saturday night when they host the Philadelphia Flyers.
Montreal (12-4-1) has a conference-leading 25 points, one more than Tampa Bay and two in front of Metropolitan Division-leading Pittsburgh.
The Canadiens have been particularly impressive while outscoring opponents 13-3 during a four-game winning streak. That scoring has been spread through eight players with Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller netting three each and rookie Jiri Sekac tallying two.
Pacioretty leads Montreal with eight goals and 13 points, scoring twice in Thursday’s 5-1 win over Boston. Carey Price made 21 saves to win his third straight start with an 0.67 goals-against average and one shutout.
"This is the game we’ve been searching for a while," Pacioretty said. "We’ve been relying too much on Carey Price the last couple of games. It feels really good to put some in for him and take some pressure off him for once."
One area where Montreal needs improvement is the power play, which scored once in five chances against Boston to end a stretch of 27 straight without a goal. The unit’s 8.5 percent success rate ranks 28th in the NHL, but Montreal is looking to change that with the addition of Sergei Gonchar, acquired from Dallas for Travis Moen earlier this week.
While the 40-year-old defenseman was held pointless in his Canadiens debut, coach Michel Therrien is encouraged.
"The power play was really good. We could’ve scored more goals, but this is what we’re looking for from our power play," he said. "We want them to give us some momentum, make the right decisions, move the puck, and put pucks at the net at the right time."
Facing Philadelphia’s 25th-ranked penalty kill could help the Canadiens. The Flyers (7-6-2) have allowed eight power-play goals on 20 chances while going 2-4-0 on the road.
Philadelphia surrendered a season-high three power-play goals in Friday’s 4-3 loss to visiting Columbus, which had dropped nine straight.
"We couldn’t keep up. We looked like a step behind," coach Craig Berube said, alluding to the team’s long layoff after beating Colorado 4-3 last Saturday.
Red-hot Jakub Voracek extended his point streak to nine games with a goal and an assist Friday. He’s scored five goals and set up 12 others during his run, giving him 24 points on the season to get within one of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the league lead.
Voracek has 14 points in as many career meetings with Montreal, while Claude Giroux has 20 in 24 matchups, including playoffs.
Giroux enters this one on his own strong stretch, collecting seven points in four games. He has three goals in the past two after going eight without one.
The Flyers are 10-3-1 in their last 14 meetings with the Canadiens, losing 4-3 in a shootout at home Oct. 11.