The Montreal Canadiens started early and finished strong against their long-time rivals from Toronto.
In a classic Saturday night match-up, the Canadiens triumphed over the Maple Leafs by a final score of 4-2, claiming their fifth victory in the last six games. The Habs have 11 of a possible 12 points in that span.
They didn’t waste any time putting the Leafs in the rear-view mirror.
Max Pacioretty scored 58 seconds into the game on a rebound opportunity, after his initial shot on a breakaway was stopped, as were the other two second chances he got on Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier.
Pacioretty also scored short-handed in the second period to put the Habs up four goals. He then used his stick like an sword, which seemed to fire up the Leafs.
Toronto got a pair of goals from James van Riemsdyk and Mason Raymond 22 seconds apart to make it interesting heading into the third period.
The comeback would fall short.
The Habs improved their record to 7-1-2 over the last 10 games. There are three other teams in the East with that many wins over this most recent 10-game stretch. They include the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.
Thomas Vanek’s departure from the New York Islanders game Saturday night with an upper-body injury will have repercussions on their lineup tonight.
Arthur Staple of Newsday reports Vanek is out of the Isles game tonight in Montreal against the Canadiens. Brock Nelson will jump into the lineup in his place.
In his six games with the Islanders since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres, Vanek has one goal and two assists. The team is 2-4-0 since trading Matt Moulson for Vanek back on October 27. Meanwhile, Moulson has two goals and four assists in six games with the Sabres since the deal, although his last game against the Ducks didn’t exactly go very well.
Montreal will be on the road this weekend, but they’ll get some reinforcements along the way, according to TSN.
George Parros has been out with a concussion since the season opener, but the enforcer will rejoin the Canadiens lineup for Friday’s match against the Minnesota Wild. Parros was rushed to the hospital on Oct. 1 after he fell face first into the ice because of a freak accident during his second fight of the night with Toronto’s Colton Orr.
The Canadiens are also expected to get forward Max Pacioretty back on Friday or Saturday versus the Colorado Avalanche. Pacioretty hasn’t played since Oct. 15 due to a hamstring injury. Between 2011-12 and the shortened season, Pacioretty was by far the Canadiens’ most productive player with 48 goals and 56 assists in 123 games. He had three points in five contests in 2013-14 before he was sidelined.
In a related story, Montreal has tapped Carey Price to be the team’s starting goaltender on Friday. He has gotten off to a great start with a 2.02 GAA and .939 save percentage in 11 games.
Some news and notes from around the crease…
Neuvirth to face Canucks
Braden Holtby will rest for the first time in six games on Monday as Michal Neuvirth gets the net against the Canucks in Vancouver.
Holtby sits with a 4-5-0 record with a 3.07 GAA and .913 save percentage, paving the way for Neuvirth — he of the 1-1-0 record with a 3.08 GAA and .893 save percentage — to make his fourth appearance of the season but second in as many games, as he came on in relief of Holtby in Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Calgary.
Neuvirth has one career appearance against Vancouver, a 7-4 loss in Oct. 2011 in which he allowed four goals on 26 shots in 40 minutes of relief action.
Budaj in for Habs
The Canadiens face a tall task in taking on the Rangers in their first game of the season at MSG on Monday, and they’ll do it with backup Peter Budaj in goal.
Budaj, 31, will play for just the second time this season and the first since a 4-1 win over Edmonton on Oct. 10, a game in which he stopped 27 of 28 shots.
Carey Price has been one of the league’s busiest netminders this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Habs do in front of a different face (and how Budaj fares after so much time off).
— As reported earlier, Henrik Lundqvist will return from a two-game absence to face the Habs tonight.
— Injured Carolina goalie Cam Ward will indeed miss 2-4 weeks with a lower-body ailment.
— Josh Harding’s minor injury won’t keep him from backing up Niklas Backstrom vs. Chicago.
Jarred Tinordi’s bright start to his NHL career just got a little darker.
Tinordi, Montreal’s 21-year-old rookie defenseman, was sent down to AHL Hamilton on Wednesday, the day after being made a healthy scratch for the Habs’ 4-3 loss to Edmonton.
A 6-foot-6, 227-pounder with a nasty streak, Tinordi made an impression in training camp and early this season by dishing out big hits. He played a career-high 16:42 in a 3-2 loss to Calgary on Oct. 9 and dressed for both games prior to the Edmonton loss — a 2-1 loss to Nashville and a 5-3 win over Columbus.
But on Tuesday, Habs head coach Michel Therrien sent Tinordi a message.
“We want him to bring the intensity he did at training camp,” Therrien explained. “He’s not doing that right now.”
Tinordi’s demotion means Nathan Beaulieu will stick with the Habs — for now — and likely be in the lineup when they host Anaheim on Thursday. Beaulieu played 11:26 against the Oilers, blocking three shots.