The Montreal Canadiens’ winning mentality has managed to persist despite their first loss in nearly three weeks.
Perhaps the memories of a familiar victory can put the Canadiens back in the win column Saturday night when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Montreal (26-12-2) downed Pittsburgh 4-1 on the road last Saturday behind a 30-save effort from Carey Price for the Canadiens’ sixth win in a row and ninth in 10 games. That run came to an end Tuesday, as Montreal allowed four second-period goals and was outshot 36-22 as it returned from a five-game trip with a 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
Prior to that defeat, Montreal had found a groove on both ends of the ice. Price had won eight of nine starts over that 10-game stretch, the Canadiens allowed only 1.44 goals per game and supported Price with 3.3 goals per game of their own – a significant improvement over their 2.41 average through the season’s first 29 games.
To coach Michel Therrien, those improvements were not undone by a single loss.
"Attitude is a very important thing for me," Therrien told the Canadiens’ official website. "They’re ready to work hard and they’ve got a good attitude. I don’t think that this group gets enough credit for their work ethic. I know it. I’m with the guys every day.
"There’s a good atmosphere at the heart of our team and that atmosphere comes with the attitude that our players have."
Max Pacioretty has been the primary contributor in Montreal’s recent success, which he continued with his 17th goal of the season on Tuesday. Pacioretty leads the club with 32 points and has scored in three consecutive games.
Like the Canadiens, Pittsburgh (24-10-6) owns 54 points but cannot seem to escape its worst stretch of the season. Following the Penguins’ loss to Montreal, they fell at home to Boston 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday for their sixth loss in eight games.
An inability to find the net has been the main issue. Pittsburgh has scored four goals over its last four losses and has only one power-play goal in the last seven games despite 19 chances. Sidney Crosby tallied four assists in Pittsburgh’s sole convincing win in the last eight games – a 6-3 victory against Tampa Bay on Jan. 2 – but he has just one goal since Dec. 22.
"Sid’s not going to score all the time" coach Mike Johnston told the Penguins’ official website. "We do have to get more secondary scoring, for sure, throughout our lineup, and not to put it all on Sid and his responsibility to score, but our power play has to respond.
"… We have to get goals like we were. At the beginning of the year, those goals, they separated from being a tie game to a win."
Marc-Andre Fleury took the loss against the Canadiens last Saturday, but stopped all 27 shots he saw Nov. 18 in Montreal as the Penguins won 4-0.
Price is 2-2-2 with a 3.92 GAA in his last six home starts against Pittsburgh.