February 01, 2015

Carey Price has returned to practice, but the Montreal Canadiens will lean on Mike Condon for at least one more game.

The rookie makes his ninth straight start Thursday night against the visiting Arizona Coyotes, and while he hasn't exactly dazzled recently, his teammates just showed they have the ability to turn deficits into wins.

Montreal (14-3-2) trailed Vancouver 3-0 early in the second period Monday before recovering for a 4-3 overtime victory in the second of a three-game homestand following two losses.

"It was important," said Lars Eller, who scored the first Montreal goal and also had the winner in a 2-0 victory in Arizona on March 7. "We'd rather be up 3-0, but it was the first time this season we came back from being down like that, so it's very satisfying. It builds confidence in the room.

"You don't think about scoring three, you think about scoring one. When it's 3-1, there's half the game left and you don't think it's so much if you just go one at a time."

Slow starts, however, are beginning to pile up. The Canadiens have fallen behind in the first period in four straight games, and they've allowed 12 goals in their last three.

Condon, who hadn't given up more than two goals while posting a 1.57 goals-against average and .940 save percentage to open 6-0-1, has 3.56 and .859 marks over a 1-1-1 stretch. The team's confidence in him remains.

"He's done a great job," forward Max Pacioretty told the Canadiens' official website. "He's kept us in every game. I think the greatest thing I've seen from him is his ability to bounce back, whether it's after a loss or after a goal.

"He's a strong-minded player, and it's important in that position, especially in this market. No matter the outcome of the game, he always came to the rink the next day and did the right thing."

The Canadiens and Coyotes (9-8-1) split two games last season with the road teams winning, but Montreal has taken 10 of the last 12 meetings.

Arizona's four-game road trip has started with consecutive 5-2 losses with the latest stop against the New York Islanders on Monday. The Coyotes have given up 3.56 goals per game over a 4-5-0 span, and they've fallen behind in their last six with a 72.7 percent penalty kill.

"We're making mistakes, plain and simple," coach Dave Tippett said. "We're making mistakes that cost us early in the game. We have to wipe those mistakes."

They could also use some scoring from Antoine Vermette. The veteran, who returned to Arizona in the offseason after winning the Stanley Cup in Chicago, is yet to score in 12 games and doesn't have a point in his last five against Montreal.

Scoring has instead come from a pair of 20-year-olds. Max Domi leads the team with eight goals, and Anthony Duclair has seven after managing one in 18 games with the New York Rangers last season.

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has chipped in with a career-best six-game point streak.

Anders Lindback faced the Islanders, and Mike Smith is expected to start in Montreal. Smith gave up five goals on 21 shots Saturday in Columbus and has a 3.83 GAA and .872 save percentage while going 4-5-1 in 12 games since the club's season-opening three-game winning streak.

The veteran has been far more consistent against the Canadiens, going 3-2-3 with a 2.06 GAA and .932 save percentage in nine games.

Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury.

You May Like