|Habs look to finally break through vs. rival Leafs|
The Montreal Canadiens will be trying to win their third consecutive game Saturday night when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs, their old rival who themselves will be attempting to stop a three-game losing streak.
The Maple Leafs have won both meetings between the teams this season, needing overtime each time.
The Maple Leafs finished a 3-2-1 trip with two losses in a row then lost the opener of a four-game homestand Thursday night, 3-2 to the Washington Capitals.
"We actually skated probably better than I thought after coming back off the trip," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock told reporters. "The bottom line is you've got to get points and we've suddenly got one of them (for a 3-2 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday) in three games."
After losing 4-3 in overtime to the Maple Leafs on Feb. 9 in Montreal, the Canadiens lost their next three games, all on the road. They returned home to win two in a row, including a 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the 15th time this season that the Canadiens have scored five or more goals.
"I think it's just the fact that we're playing fast," Canadiens coach Claude Julien told the media. "When you play fast, there's nothing harder to defend than when you're facing some speed coming at you. Our transition game has been pretty good. Guys coming back hard gives you the opportunity to turn up the ice and then go back with some speed instead of maybe being lazy."
The Maple Leafs had 42 shots on goal against the Capitals but did not score until the third period - and their second goal came in the final minute. They were shut out by the Arizona Coyotes last Saturday and were held to two third-period goals in St. Louis on Tuesday.
Babcock feels that the goals will come. "I've liked the way we've played most nights here, to be honest with you," he said. "I usually find over time if you do good things, good things happen. I'm not as concerned about it. I thought we had, like I said, exceptional looks (against Washington)."
"Obviously, we didn't get the result but we had a lot of pucks on net," said Toronto's John Tavares, who scored his 34th goal of the season against the Capitals. "We did some good things but I think at times we didn't sustain some of the momentum that we would have liked."
The Maple Leafs were without Nazem Kadri Thursday after the center picked up a concussion during the game Tuesday. He did not practice Friday, nor did defenseman Jake Gardiner, who has had back spasms in the past. "I don't know if it's called hurt," Babcock said after practice Friday. "Today was a maintenance day. We'll see tomorrow."
As for Montreal, Brendan Gallagher scored his first career hat trick in his 467th game Thursday.
Led by Gallagher's 26 goals, the Habs have eight players on pace to reach at least 15 goals.
"If you look at our lines, there's a lot of talented players who know how to put the puck in the net," Gallagher said. "I think what we've been able to do this year is use our depth to come at teams, so nobody's really overused or over-exhausted during the game. When you're fresh, it goes a long way."
--Field Level Media