Plekanec helps Canadiens cool off Islanders with 2 goals, 2 assists
The Montreal Canadiens jumped out to the quick start they wanted in all three periods against the New York Islanders.
P.K. Subban scored 1:56 into the first, Dale Weise doubled Montreal’s lead 10 seconds into the second, and Alex Galchenyuk scored 52 seconds into the third en route to a 6-4 victory Saturday night — the Canadiens’ fifth over the Islanders in six games.
"It’s no surprise that we’re not a good starting team," said Weise, whose tap-in goal in the second tied his career high with 16 points, set last season. "We wanted to focus on that.
"We wanted to send a message to the league that this is a tough place to play."
Metropolitan Division-leading New York had won four straight. Tampa Bay jumped over the Islanders for first place in the Eastern Conference by beating Colorado on Saturday.
Montreal (28-13-3) is ranked 29th in the NHL for first-period productivity, ahead of only Buffalo. The Canadiens have scored 18 first-period goals in 44 games.
The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead on their second shot on goalie Jaroslav Halak. With Ryan Strome off for tripping, Andrei Markov faked a slap shot from the point before feeding Subban, whose one-timer sailed past Halak.
Weise made it 2-0 off the opening faceoff in the second. Tomas Plekanec stole the puck from Islanders captain John Tavares, who was caught flat-footed, before feeding a streaking Weise in front. The point was Plekanec’s first of four in the game.
"We got a good start — right away we scored on the power play," said Plekanec, who scored twice and added two assists. "Second period, same thing. We got a goal right off the first shift, so that’s huge to build confidence."
Galchenyuk gave the Canadiens a 4-2 lead after he jumped on a loose puck at the side of the net.
"It just shows that we were ready to play," said Dustin Tokarski, who started in goal in place of the injured Carey Price. "If guys can come out of the periods and we can go up early like that, it’s huge. It gets the crowd into it."
Tokarski made 27 saves for his fifth victory of the season after losing to Ottawa on Thursday.
"The difference was that I made a few saves early," Tokarski said. "Sometimes your goalie has to be there early on to make a couple of saves. In Ottawa, they got a quick one, but tonight I made a save or two to help swing momentum."
Coach Michel Therrien said Price’s injury, sustained when forward Matt Calvert crashed into him, isn’t serious. However, there is no timetable for his return.
Kyle Okposo, Nikolay Kulemin, Anders Lee and Tavares had goals for the Islanders (30-14-1). Former Canadiens goalie Halak, playing for the second straight night, stopped 27 shots.
Okposo has five goals in two games, including his four-goal outburst in a home win over Pittsburgh on Friday.
After Montreal’s sixth goal, Halak was replaced by Chad Johnson, who faced just two shots.
"I’m sure he’s frustrated," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "It’s not the outcome that he wanted. But we didn’t play very well in front of him."
Plekanec put Montreal ahead 3-1 with five minutes remaining in the second period, and he added his second goal midway through the third to make it 6-2. Plekanec assisted on the Canadiens’ first two goals.
The Islanders gave Halak back-to-back starts on consecutive nights for the second time this season. Halak made 21 saves in New York’s 6-3 win over the Penguins on Friday.
"I’m not going to use this as an excuse, but that’s the third game in (five) nights," Capuano said. "We’ve played a lot of hockey, and when you play a lot of hockey, the best thing you can do is simplify your game.
"We did not simplify our game."
Halak was 4-0 in four starts against his former club, allowing only four total goals.
NOTES: After arriving late in Montreal after Friday’s win, the Islanders canceled their Saturday morning skate. … The Canadiens will play nine of their next 11 at home. … The Islanders are tied for the NHL lead with 30 wins (Nashville). … Montreal’s Max Pacioretty’s six-game goal streak was snapped. … The Islanders were outshot for the first time in 16 games.