Habs, Leafs trending in opposite directions
MONTREAL — The NHL-leading Montreal Canadiens are once again streaking. Only this time, it's in the opposite direction.
After matching or setting franchise — and league — records en route to a 13-1-1 start, the Canadiens are now 0-2-1 in their past three games after falling to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night in Raleigh. Now they'll head home to face a Toronto Maple Leafs squad on a roll, rested and waiting in Montreal.
It's the second meeting in three weeks for the historic rivals, and the final on at the Bell Centre. The teams last squared off on Oct. 29 in Montreal, with the Canadiens skating away with a 2-1 victory.
The Canadiens gave up three goals in six minutes in the third period against Carolina to see a 1-0 lead become a 3-1 deficit. It marked the third straight game of at least three goals allowed for Montreal and while they connected three times of their own in Tuesday's overtime loss to Florida, they've only scored three goals total in their two other losses.
“I think the effort was there,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said after the loss to the Hurricanes. “You need puck luck and we don't have the puck luck lately.”
If there's been one bright spot during Montreal's recent slide, it's the play of defenseman Andrei Markov. The 16-year NHL veteran picked up a pair of assists against the Hurricanes to extend his point streak to seven games and moving him into a tie with Yvan Cournoyer for seventh place on the Canadiens' all-time assists list.
Carey Price, who made 37 saves in their last meeting with Toronto, will get the start in goal on Saturday but Therrien didn't confirm any other potential line-up changes. Rookie Charles Hudon, called up from the AHL on Thursday, replaced Sven Andrighetto. He could earn another go after picking up an assist and leaving an impression on his coach.
“We'll see, but he played really well,” Therrien said. “He played well for a first game, I thought he created offensively, really responsible on the ice. I thought the kid competed really well. I'm pleased with his effort.”
For the Maple Leafs, November has been much kinder than October was. After posting a 2-4-3 record in the opening month of the season, Toronto has won six of its eight games so far this month. And not only has Mike Babcock's group been winning, it's been doing so with plenty of offense of late; Toronto has scored at least six goals in each of their most recent four wins.
The young Leafs have made headlines for their offensive efforts and while the likes of Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander have generated most of the buzz, rookie Connor Brown added his name to the conversation on Thursday night. Brown became the fifth Maple Leafs player to record a four-point night with two goals and a pair of assists in a 6-1 win over the Panthers.
“I'm slowly getting more comfortable with the puck and more comfortable making plays,” Brown told TSN after the game. “Offensively it was a bit of a slow start but I feel good defensively and I feel like I'm in the right spots.”
While the offense has been rolling, it's been doing so without much help from the power play. Toronto has scored just three times on 19 opportunities with the man advantage and has been held off the scoresheet in four of the past five games.
Opponents aren't scoring much on power plays either against the Leafs, who have allowed just three goals on the penalty kill and have denied the opposition of any power play tallies in six of eight games this month.