MONTREAL (AP) — The Montreal Canadiens couldn’t wait to snap their two-game skid, and they needed only 13 minutes to get the best of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Max Pacioretty scored twice in the first period, and the Canadiens held off the Blue Jackets 3-1 on Saturday night to get back to their winning ways.
Tomas Plekanec added a short-handed, empty-net goal for the Canadiens, and Carey Price stopped 32 shots for his 33rd win of the season.
"With two early, you’re not going to take many chances for the rest of the game," said Pacioretty, who scored his team-leading 28th and 29th goals. "We were able to play a sound defensive game. That’s what it takes to win."
The Canadiens came in struggling offensively, having scored just two goals in each of their previous four games. It appeared to be a thing of the past when Pacioretty gave them a two-goal lead after 13 minutes.
Montreal’s 13-shot first period was the Canadiens’ most productive frame. They turned to defense and to Price in the second and third periods to hold on to the slim advantage.
The Canadiens (38-16-5) neutralized Columbus’ four power plays, forcing the Blue Jackets to take shots from the perimeter, and blocked shots consistently throughout.
Montreal blocked 30 shots in total, including six each by Nathan Beaulieu and Tom Gilbert.
When Columbus (26-28-3) had quality scoring chances, Price stood tall. He made 31 saves for his 33rd victory of the season.
Nick Foligno scored for the Blue Jackets, who got a 21-save performance from Curtis McElhinney.
"Tonight was a win where everyone contributed in their own way," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "Our start to the game was very good, and that allowed us to win it.
"After that, we handled our lead well. And we had a couple of breaks, too."
Montreal, which avoided its first three-game skid since early December, is 32-3-1 when allowing two goals or fewer.
Pacioretty scored his first on the power play at 2:29 of the first. The goal was Montreal’s second with the man advantage in eight games.
His second of the night made it 2-0. Pacioretty one-timed a feed by rookie defenseman Nathan Beaulieu for his fourth goal in four games. He also has two assists in that span.
"The difference tonight was all the call-ups," Pacioretty said of Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, Greg Pateryn, Christian Thomas and Jacob De La Rose, who were all recently recalled from Hamilton of the AHL due to injuries. "They felt comfortable out there tonight. We’re battling adversity, and they stepped up."
Columbus reduced its deficit when Foligno beat Price at 14:05 of the first. That was all the Blue Jackets would get.
"We left the ice after the first period feeling we could get back to playing our game," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "We had some good moments on the power play and created some momentum."
Scott Hartnell came close to tying the game when he rang a shot off the crossbar. Cam Atkinson’s drive from the point with 1 second remaining hit both side posts and stayed out.
Andrei Markov gave the Blue Jackets hope in the third period when he took a penalty for delay of game at 18:16, but Plekanec scored into the empty net.
McElhinney is 6-4 since replacing injured starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky who could return next week from a groin injury.
NOTES: Canadiens C Alex Galchenyuk missed a second consecutive game because of the flu. … Montreal defensemen Alexei Emelin and Sergei Gonchar are both out with upper-body injuries. … Columbus is 1-21 when trailing after two periods.