Pens stay hot as Fleury spurns Canadiens

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MONTREAL (AP) Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 33 shots, Bryan Rust scored his first goal of the season to put Pittsburgh ahead in the second period, and the Penguins beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 Saturday night.

Patric Hornqvist and Eric Fehr also scored for the Penguins, who are 3-1-2 in their last six games.

P.K. Subban scored for Montreal and Mike Condon, playing for the injured Carey Price, finished with 29 saves. Canadiens coach Michel Therrien announced Friday that Price would not play until after the All-Star break.

Subban tied the score with 9:21 left in the second period with his second of the season – and first in 34 games – on a one-timer from the point.

Rust put the Penguins in front for good, beating Condon top shelf on a breakaway with his second career goal about 3 1/2 minutes later.

Fehr added a short-handed empty-netter with 10 seconds left in regulation.

Montreal has not won consecutive games since late November.

The Penguins were all over the Canadiens for much of the game, beating them to loose pucks and applying constant pressure on the puck carrier.

With Torrey Mitchell in the box for high sticking in the second, Hornqvist eluded Montreal’s defense and slotted home his ninth of the season from the edge of the crease at 7:18 to make it 1-0.

Evgeni Malkin got an assist on the goal, his ninth point in his last six games.

Pittsburgh’s power play, ranked 15th overall in the NHL, has been dominant over the last four weeks, scoring 11 goals in their last 10 games.

Fleury made 16 saves in the third period.

Condon had to be sharp in the first period to keep the game scoreless. He made a sensational pad save on Sidney Crosby early on, and made back-to-back stops on Malkin and Kris Letang late in the period.

Condon was less dominant in the second, however, when Hornqvist and Rust prevented him from getting his fourth consecutive victory.

NOTES: Greg Pateryn was in the lineup for Montreal in place of the injured Jeff Petry (lower body). … Andrei Markov was reunited with Subban on Montreal’s top defensive pairing. They each played more than 27 minutes. … Pittsburgh’s Tom Kuhnhackl, 23, made his season debut. … This was the last of three meetings between the Canadiens and Pengins this season.

NHL ON NBCSN: Canadiens hope to build off Winter Classic win in matchup with Flyers

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers host the Montreal Canadiens at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

December was a month to forget for the Montreal Canadiens, but they couldn’t have asked for a better start to the new year.

The Canadiens embarrassed Boston, 5-1, in last Friday’s Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium.

Brendan Gallagher, who returned to action after missing 17 games with broken fingers, had a huge impact on the outcome of that game.

Gallagher scored a goal and an assist against the Bruins and now has 10 goals and 21 points in 23 games in ’15-16.

“Brendan’s return did everybody some good,” teammate David Desharnais said after the win over Boston. “We got goals from practically every line tonight. That’s how it was at the start of the year and that’s how it has to stay if we want to win games.”

This is will be the final game of Montreal’s eight-game road trip. They haven’t played at the Bell Center since Dec. 17.

The Flyers return home after a disappointing west coast road trip that saw them lose to Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles.

Through 37 games, the Flyers have only managed to pick up 37 points. That won’t be good enough if they hope to make the playoffs, so putting an end to their three-game slump will be crucial.

Philadelphia is seven points behind Boston for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Part of the problem for the Flyers has been their poor play on special teams and their inability to score goals.

They currently have the 27th power play in the NHL (16.4 percent), while the penalty kill is 26th (77.3 percent).

Their PK unit killed only 50 percent of the oppositions power play opportunities during their road trip through California.

Only the Ducks have scored less often than the Flyers (78) this season.

This will be the first of three meetings between Montreal and Philadelphia.

 

With Winter Classic win, Canadiens ‘turned the chapter on’ a miserable December

FOXBOROUGH — Montreal captain Max Pacioretty was hoping that the “big stage” of the Winter Classic would be the perfect catalyst for his struggling Canadiens.

He wasn’t disappointed.

“It really felt like just a new year,” Pacioretty said after the Habs blasted the Bruins, 5-1, Friday at Gillette Stadium.

“We turned the chapter on the last month. We don’t want to think about December. We want to think about 2016.”

Montreal went 3-11-0 in December, unable to maintain its winning ways without injured stars Carey Price or Brendan Gallagher.

While Price remains sidelined, Gallagher returned against the Bruins, scoring once and adding an assist on a Pacioretty goal. For that, the 23-year-old winger was named the first star.

“Everybody knows the way he plays and why he has success,” Pacioretty said of his bulldog linemate. “It’s because he plays the same way every night.”

“Things that Gally’s doing, not too many players in the league can do those,” said center Tomas Plekanec. “We’ve played so many games together that the chemistry’s there.”

Of course, it was only one game. With some tough opponents coming up, defenseman P.K. Subban wasn’t about to proclaim the end of all of the Canadiens’ problems.

“We’ll have to see,” said Subban. “This is a tough league. You want to use momentum whenever you can, and try to build off wins. And we’re going to try to do that.”

Rehabbed? Montreal breaks six-game slump, regains Atlantic lead

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For a while there, it looked like the Montreal Canadiens were going to lose another game in another painful way.

The Tampa Bay Lightning turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead during a staggering 21-second span, but the Canadiens ultimately shook off the shock to win 4-3 via a shootout.

No, this isn’t the prettiest win, but standings points are more important than style points.

With this desperately needed win – ending a losing streak of six games – Montreal keeps the revolving door atop the Atlantic Division moving, as they’re back at No. 1. And, hey, it might help them shake Tampa Bay’s recent mental edge to boot:

The gap is small enough that this might be a short-lived advantage, but Montreal needed this … badly.

Here’s what the Atlantic’s top six looks like as of this writing.

Montreal: 21-14-3, 45 points, 38 games played
Florida: 20-12-4, 44 points, 36 GP
Detroit: 18-11-7, 43 points, 36 GP
Boston: 19-12-4, 42 points, 35 GP
Ottawa: 18-12-6, 42 points, 36 GP
Tampa Bay: 18-15-4, 40 points, 37 GP

This loss stings for the Lightning, yet it was also a statement that they might not fade away so easily.

WATCH LIVE: Montreal at Minnesota

Tonight, the Canadiens and Wild will meet for the first time this season — you can catch all the action on TV (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) or online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

The Habs come into tonight’s action mired in their worst slump of the year, having lost four straight while going 2-8-0 overall for the month of December.

A big part of the reason for that slide has been goaltending — or, lack thereof. Mike Condon and Dustin Tokarski have struggled to fill Carey Price‘s very large skates and, as a result, Montreal has slowly slid down the standings.

Minnesota’s had no such problem in goal.

Both Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper have been very good this year and, tonight, it’ll be Kuemper making the start. That should bode well for the Wild — Minnesota has at least one point in each game where Kuemper has a decision this season (3-0-4).

Last games

Montreal: Lost 5-1 in Nashville on Monday night, a game in which Condon was hooked in favor of Tokarski. Montreal’s one goal of offense marked the fourth straight game it has been held under two goals.

Minnesota: Lost 6-3 to Dallas on Monday night, a game in which the Wild led 2-0 after the first period, but were outscored 6-1 over the final 40 minutes.

Related:

Wild could be key players at the deadline

Therrien calls out goalies after fourth straight loss