Pacioretty scores twice, Canadiens beat Maple Leafs 4-1
MONTREAL (AP) — The Montreal Canadiens still believe a playoff spot is within reach.
Max Pacioretty scored twice and Montreal beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 on Saturday night for their 10th straight victory in the rivalry.
Montreal has won three of its last four and is trying to mount an improbable run to the playoffs. The Canadiens are five points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We’ve always had hope in this room,” Pacioretty said. “I won’t look at the standings. I’m taking things one day at a time, one game at a time, and hoping for good results.”
Alex Galchenyuk and Devante Smith-Pelly also scored for Montreal, and Mike Condon had 31 saves.
“We’re right there,” Condon said. “Anything can happen. See what Ottawa did last year. So I have full faith in this group of guys here. Why not? Why not us?”
Added P.K. Subban: “There’s still some light at the end of the tunnel. There’s an opportunity. If we keep playing the way we’re playing right now, who knows what happens?”
Matt Hunwick scored Toronto’s only goal, and Jonathan Bernier stopped 32 shots. The Maple Leafs are last in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto hasn’t beaten Montreal since Jan. 18, 2014, and this is the Canadiens first 10-game streak against the Leafs since 1958.
“The bottom line is we were in a game that was 2-1 going into the third,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “We were set up to have success. Pacioretty made a really nice play pushing off (Morgan) Rielly for one goal and I felt that was the dagger that did us in right there.”
Pacioretty scored his first at 6:23 of the third period, beating Bernier top shelf with a one-timer following a cross-ice pass from Andrei Markov to give Montreal a 3-1 lead.
“That’s his bread and butter,” Pacioretty said of Markov. “I’ve had a lot of plays like that with him. He’s such a smart player. That play, if you watch our warm-ups, that pass, we probably do that fifty times back and forth. So we have a bit of chemistry on that pass.”
The Canadiens captain added his second less than 2 minutes later, jumping on a loose puck in front of the net after Greg Pateryn’s shot from the point took a big bounce off the end boards.
This was Pacioretty’s first multigoal game since Oct. 13.
Toronto’s Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau left with an upper-body injury in the first period and did not return. Parenteau also left the Leafs’ practice on Friday after feeling sore.
Toronto also lost Byron Froese to injury after he blocked P.K. Subban’s shot with his right hand in the second period.
The Maple Leafs got off to a fast start, with Hunwick beating Condon at 5:29 of the first period. Hunwick cashed in a big rebound after Condon made the pad save on Brendan Leipsic’s initial shot.
The Leafs have scored first just 19 times in 60 games this season and have an NHL-worst 10 wins when scoring first.
Galchenyuk responded for Montreal less than 2 minutes after Hunwick’s opener, beating Bernier with a precise shot from a tight angle.
Babcock challenged the play, claiming Lars Eller had interfered with Bernier, but the goal stood.
Galchenyuk now has five goals in his last seven games.
Smith-Pelly scored with an easy tap-in at 10:39 of the second.
Centre Phillip Danault played his first game for Montreal and even took the game’s opening faceoff.
Danault was acquired by the Canadiens on Friday in a trade that sent forwards Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann to the Chicago Blackhawks. Montreal also received a second-round pick in the 2018 draft.
Earlier Saturday, the Maple Leafs traded goalie James Reimer and forward Jeremy Morin to San Jose for forward Ben Smith, goaltender Alex Stalock and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft.
NOTES: Montreal is 5-0-1 in its last six home games. ... The Leafs recalled goaltender Garret Sparks from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies on Saturday. ... Michael McCarron and Morgan Ellis were recalled from the St. John’s IceCaps on Friday.