By Alan Ferguson
Montreal (40-27-10) at Toronto (32-33-13), 7:00 p.m. EDT
TORONTO (AP) -- With starting goaltender Carey Price out,
Jaroslav Halak stepped in and continued the Montreal Canadiens'
surge with a strong effort against a woeful Eastern Conference
Trying to keep the Canadiens' drive for a second straight
playoff berth moving, Halak will likely be in net again Saturday
night against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Saturday night's game
at the Air Canada Centre.
Price helped Montreal rebound from a season high five-game skid
by allowing nine goals during a 3-0-1 stretch, but he came down
with the flu before Thursday night's game at the New York
Islanders. Making his first start since a 5-2 home loss to
Toronto on March 21, Halak stopped 26 shots in a 5-1 victory
that pushed the Canadiens into seventh in the East.
Montreal (40-27-10) has a tenuous grip on that spot - one point
ahead of the eighth-place New York Rangers and three in front of
Florida with a game in hand on both teams.
"We're not looking at where we're at in the standings. We're
just looking at winning games," Canadiens forward Alex Tanguay
said. "Points are crucial, and it's going to be no different for
us Saturday in Toronto."
Montreal has split its two visits to Toronto this season,
winning 6-1 on Oct. 11 behind 24 saves from Halak but falling
6-3 on Nov. 8 with Price in net.
Aiding Halak on Thursday, the Canadiens scored three power-play
goals against the Islanders. They are 10-for-30 with the man
advantage over the last five games, equaling their power-play
goal total from the previous 13 contests.
"We feel good," said Tanguay, who has five goals and nine
assists in his last 11 games. "We've played better, and
hopefully, we can keep on improving. We are a team that felt at
the start had a lot of potential. We maybe underachieved but
even though we're 77 games into it, the season is still young,
and we can still make some good things happen."
Saku Koivu opened Thursday's scoring on the man advantage and
Alexei Kovalev had a season-high three assists to extend their
respective point streaks to five games. Left wing Andrei
Kostitsyn, though, likely will miss Saturday's game after
suffering a cut over his eye.
Out of playoff contention for the fourth straight season to
extend their Stanley Cup drought to 42 years, the Maple Leafs
(32-33-13) have given up 22 goals while dropping three of their
last four games. Toronto, which owns the league's worst defense
with 266 goals allowed, matched its season high in that
department Friday night in an 8-5 loss at Philadelphia.
The Maple Leafs scored all five of their goals in a 15:34 span
that began late in the second period, but otherwise failed to
impress coach Ron Wilson.
"We had some guys who basically mailed it in tonight and didn't
want to compete," Wilson said. "We knew that they would come
Trying to avoid finishing last in the Northeast Division in
consecutive seasons, Toronto leads Ottawa by one point.