Blue Jackets-Canadiens Preview
With two wingers leading the way, the Columbus Blue Jackets woke up their stagnant offense while taking advantage of a struggling Montreal Canadiens defense.
The Blue Jackets seek another high-scoring performance in Tuesday night's finale of a home-and-home series while trying to head into the All-Star break on a positive note.
Columbus (18-27-5) was outscored 31-20 in a 2-5-2 stretch but topped Montreal 5-2 on Monday as Cam Atkinson registered his third career hat trick. Brandon Saad - the Blue Jackets' lone All-Star representative - added his two goals in his team's three-goal third, including the tiebreaking score with 10:54 remaining.
"We worked hard. We worked to get pucks back. We were opportunistic," said center Brandon Dubinsky, who had three assists as the Blue Jackets ended a four-game skid against the Canadiens. "We buried some of our chances and that was the difference."
Montreal (24-21-4) dropped to 1-5-1 in its last seven with Monday's defeat and has been outscored 20-10 in the past five games while continuing to play without Carey Price. The reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy winner, who hasn't played since Nov. 25, is expected to remain sidelined at least another three-plus weeks because of his lower-body injury.
"Those moments where we lose the puck or we lose our heads, it's costing us games right now," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "The good thing is we don't have much time to think about it. We turn around and play the same team on our ice in our barn."
The Canadiens will try to bounce back by sending Columbus to its seventh loss in eight road games. The Blue Jackets have totaled 14 goals in that 1-5-1 stretch.
Montreal is 2-7-0 in its last nine home games and has dropped the last three - its longest losing streak at the Bell Centre since an 0-3-1 skid Feb. 13-21, 2012.
The Canadiens have given up a respectable 2.6 goals per contest in those past nine home games but have averaged a paltry 1.3 at the other end. They've scored once in each of their past three losses.
Montreal has outscored the Blue Jackets 5-2 while winning the past two home games in the series. Mike Condon, who started Monday's loss, and Price were in net for those contests.
With the break coming up, the Canadiens could choose to stick with Condon for the second half of their back-to-back games or start Ben Scrivens.
Scrivens is 0-3-0 with a 3.77 goals-against average in his three appearances this season and had a 3.24 GAA in a pair of shootout losses against the Blue Jackets in 2014-15 while with Edmonton.
Condon was between the pipes for the most recent home game versus Columbus, a 2-1 victory Dec. 1.
With Joonas Korpisalo in net for the Blue Jackets in Monday's win, Columbus might give Anton Forsberg a chance to earn his first victory in nine NHL starts. He earned his only win in nine career appearances Jan. 2 when he replaced Curtis McElhinney in a shootout victory against Washington.
Montreal captain Max Pacioretty was held off the scoresheet Monday after scoring six goals in his previous four games against Columbus.