March 20, 2015

Losing four in a row stung Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien enough to reunite Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec on the top line in hopes of providing an early spark.

The San Jose Sharks' line shuffling hasn't solved their woes quite yet.

After a much-needed victory, Montreal looks to hand the visiting Sharks a seventh consecutive defeat Tuesday night.

The Canadiens (20-8-3) hadn't scored more than two goals in six straight, the last four being defeats in regulation with three coming by one goal. Therrien split up Pacioretty and Plekanec, who usually play on a line with the injured Brendan Gallagher, for the past five.

That changed Saturday, as Plekanec assisted on Pacioretty's first-period goal in a 3-1 win over Ottawa. The Canadiens tied a franchise record for shots in a period with 27 in the first, six coming from Pacioretty.

"You need your best players to be the difference makers. This is what it takes for any team to be successful," Therrien said. "Some of the guys had good opportunities, even if they were not able to score. But Pacioretty and Plekanec definitely set a great example for their teammates."

The victory comes as a major boost of confidence for a club that has been playing without Gallagher, former Shark Torrey Mitchell and star goaltender Carey Price. Gallagher has been out since breaking multiple fingers Nov. 22 but began skating again Monday.

Although Price will be out at least a couple more weeks with a lower-body injury, Mitchell was a full participant in Monday's practice and could return for this one.

''The young guys were playing with energy, but it seemed that the older guys like myself weren't pulling their weight,'' said Pacioretty, who didn't have a point during the losing streak. "We learned a lot from the last four games. (Saturday) wasn't perfect, but we came out on top.''

Plekanec scored March 21 as Montreal beat San Jose 2-0 to snap a four-game skid against the Sharks (14-14-1), who can't seem to solve their problems no matter what coach Peter DeBoer tries.

They've been outscored 20-9 during an 0-5-1 stretch to start the month, with only four of those goals coming at even strength. DeBoer separated Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton for the first time this season Saturday, but it didn't yield anything positive during a 2-0 loss to Minnesota.

Pavelski has one goal over his last eight and Thornton has two in 11.

"Drop six in a row, it gets frustrating," Pavelski said. "We've got to calm down a little bit and realize where we're at. A few teams have caught us when we had a chance to pull ahead a little bit. We have to go back to work, back to the drawing board and work out a few things.

"We've played hard at times, there hasn't been any quit in games so it's about getting over that hump and breaking this little funk we're in."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 29 shots Saturday, but his last start against the Canadiens was a disaster. He allowed the highest goal total of his career in a 6-2 loss with Los Angeles on Dec. 12, 2014.

Dustin Tokarski made 25 saves against the Senators and is expected to start Tuesday.

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