COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The Columbus Blue Jackets gave their fans quite a gift two days before Christmas - a 12-game winning streak and the best record in the NHL.
Columbus defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Friday night to maintain the best record in the NHL and improve to 23-5-4 - its best start in franchise history. The Blue Jackets have not lost since Nov. 26.
Montreal, which outshot Columbus 37-24, fell to 21-9-4.
The win was a league-leading 20th for goalie Sergei Bobvrosky, who kept Columbus in the game despite an apathetic third period in which the Blue Jackets took just five shots.
''To secure these types of games when your team is not dead on . it's your goaltender,'' Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. ''It's the most important position in hockey. We have probably one of the best goalies in the league here, so it has helped us quite a bit during this little streak.''
Bobrovsky has allowed two goals or less in nine of his 10-game winning streak.
''I prepare myself to work and try to help the guys as much as I need,'' Bobrovsky said. ''Guys work hard and it's fun to watch them. It's good for me to step up some nights and help them.''
Sam Gagner put Columbus on the board at 17:50 of the first period, 16 seconds into a Canadiens bench minor for too many men on the ice. Gagner took a pass from Nick Foligno, off a Cam Atkinson rebound, and directed it past Montreal goalie Al Montoya for his 15th of the season and sixth power-play goal.
The Jackets wasted no time making it 2-0 with Brandon Saad's 13th goal of the season just 1:22 into the second period, with assists from Foligno and Alexander Wennberg.
The Canadiens dominated the puck in the third period and made it 2-1 with Jeff Petry's goal at 9:08, assisted by Chris Terry and Mark Barberio.
''We were playing the best team in the league tonight and they were doing something impressive out there,'' Montoya said. ''It shows a lot of character in this game. Even though we lost this game, we never stopped. . We kept fighting to the end.''
Tortorella said that same fight was evident in Columbus.
''You could tell at beginning of the third period we just stopped skating,'' Tortorella said. ''We thought Montreal was just going to roll over, and just finish the game and go home. They are one of the top teams in the league for a reason. They check very well. They are fast.
''After they scored the goal we found ourselves and started playing better.''
Notes: Both Columbus and Montreal were playing the second of two games in consecutive nights. ... The Blue Jackets signed RW Vitaly Abramov to a three-year entry level contract. Abramov was the Jackets' third-round selection, 65th overall, in the 2016 NHL Draft. ... With his assist in the first period, Atkinson became the fourth player in Columbus history to score 200 points. ... Seth Jones left the game at 1:12 of the first period after taking a puck to the mouth. ... Atkinson continued his career-high nine-game point streak. He currently leads the team in goals (15).
The Canadiens play Wednesday at Tampa Bay.
The Blue Jackets are off until Tuesday when they host Boston,