Maple Leafs-Canadiens Preview
Though the Montreal Canadiens are coming off an impressive victory over the NHL's top team, reaching the playoffs still remains a tall order.
At least the Canadiens can complete another season sweep of the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs with a 10th consecutive victory over their Original Six rival Saturday night.
Montreal (29-27-5) has earned five points in three games, handing Washington a rare home loss with a 4-3 victory Wednesday.
“It's something to be proud of,” coach Michel Therrien told the Canadiens' official website. “That's the beauty of sport. The game is played on the ice, and the boys rose to the occasion.”
The Canadiens are a modest 5-3-1 since enduring an agonizing 5-20-1 stretch that dropped them from Stanley Cup contenders to outside of playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Though Montreal is still within striking distance of the final wild-card spot, it's 13th in the East and will be without a couple of significant faces after trading forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise to Chicago on Friday.
Rookie Mike Condon outplayed Braden Holtby on Wednesday as the Canadiens opened a 3-0 lead to chase the Capitals goaltender early in the second period, then held on after Washington scored twice in the third.
Condon has a 1.90 goals-against average in the last three games while forward Brendan Gallagher has scored in five of the last nine.
“We've been through some stuff here in the last (couple of) months but we still believe we're a pretty good hockey team,” Gallagher said.
“We're just going to keep competing night after night. It's about getting results and getting back to the winning attitude that we've had for so long in here. (Wednesday was) a good step in the right direction.”
The Canadiens have a good chance to remain down that road against Toronto (21-28-10), which hasn't scored more than three goals in any meeting over its 0-5-4 series stretch. It's totaled nine goals and gone 0 for 19 on the power play during an 0-3-2 slide at Montreal.
The Canadiens have killed 21 of 24 penalties in their last nine overall.
Toronto, however, snapped a four-game losing streak with Thursday's 3-1 victory over Carolina. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored for the third time in five games during the Maple Leafs' second victory in nine contests.
After recording eight goals and 14 assists in 56 games with Montreal last season, Parenteau has 16 of each over 59 contests for the Maple Leafs in 2015-16. However, he could be moved prior to Monday's trade deadline as Toronto continues to look for ways to stockpile young talent and draft picks for the future.
Last in the East, the Maple Leafs have already traded veterans Dion Phaneuf, Roman Polak, Nick Spaling, and Shawn Matthias this month.
''It's in the back of your mind obviously,'' said Quebec native Parenteau. ''I try not to think about it. I try to block it (out). I have two kids. I have a wife, too. We try not to listen to the media or anything. We go about our business and go from there.''
Toronto, which last won back-to-back games Feb. 2 and 4, confirmed Thursday that key forwards James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul will not return this season. Van Riemsdyk had 29 points in 40 games but a broken foot has sidelined him since Jan. 9. Dealing with as sports hernia, Lupul had 11 goals in 46 games this season.