While the Montreal Canadiens couldn't keep up with the Ottawa Senators a few days ago, getting back to the Bell Centre could help them return the favor.
Looking to extend its longest home winning streak in three seasons, Montreal tries to avenge this week's loss to Ottawa as these Northeast Division rivals square off again Sunday.
The Canadiens (5-2-0) had scored four goals in four consecutive games - all wins - before suffering a 5-1 road loss to the Senators (5-2-1) on Wednesday. Leading the league with a 0.99 goals-against average, Craig Anderson made 31 saves for Ottawa while Andre Benoit, Colin Greening and Zack Smith each tallied two assists.
A repeat performance, though, could be hard to come by with the series shifting to Montreal.
The Canadiens, who won an NHL-low 16 home games in 2011-12, have outscored opponents 18-8 during a four-game run on their own ice since a season-opening 2-1 loss to Toronto. It's Montreal's longest such streak since stringing together five consecutive home wins Oct. 20-31, 2009.
"I always believed this is the greatest place to play," coach Michel Therrien told the league's official website. "We have to play a game where we're pushing the pace, because I believe our team has speed.
"When we talk about being tough to play against, it's not only the physical aspect. It's our work ethic, our decisions with the puck, all these little things make teams tough to play against. Right now our team is buying into that."
The Canadiens continued their recent home dominance Saturday, posting their highest scoring output thus far in a 6-1 rout of Buffalo. Rene Bourque and David Desharnais each scored twice and Lars Eller added a goal and two assists for Montreal, which outshot the Sabres 15-1 in the opening period.
"We kind of gave a statement," Therrien said. "We lost 5-1 last game and I addressed the players to make sure we had the right attitude, and I think the guys worked really hard and were in a good frame of mind. That was a good statement."
The Canadiens also got a boost from defenseman P.K. Subban, who notched an assist in his season debut after ending his holdout earlier in the week.
"When you're playing your first game and the team has a great start it's sort of a relief," said Subban, who has five points in his last five games against Ottawa. "I'm just happy with the win here.
"It was a great team effort today, everybody contributed. ... It's good to see that, and we should be fresh for (Sunday)."
Carey Price, who made 30 saves Saturday to improve to 5-1-0, didn't face Ottawa on Wednesday but is expected to start this game. Price has gone 8-1-2 with a 1.61 GAA in this series over the last two seasons, allowing two goals or fewer in eight straight matchups.
The Senators couldn't generate any offense Friday in a 1-0 loss at Carolina. Anderson made a season-high 34 saves, but Ottawa went 0 for 4 on the power play.
"I don't think it was our best game, but over the course of the schedule, you're not always going to play your best game," coach Paul MacLean said.
While Ottawa continues to play without star center Jason Spezza due to a herniated disk, there's a chance Montreal's Max Pacioretty (appendectomy) could return earlier than expected Sunday. He's missed the last four games.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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