MONTREAL (AP) - The Montreal Canadiens are off to a good start in the new year.
Mike Blunden and Max Pacioretty scored in the second period, Carey Price made 23 saves, and Montreal beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 on Saturday night.
Erik Cole scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season, on the power play with 17 seconds remaining, to seal the Canadiens' second straight win.
``That was just an honest 60 minutes of hard work,' Price said. ``Everybody was on the same page again tonight.'
Montreal, which won for the third time in 10 games, got consecutive victories for the first time since Dec. 10-13.
``It's a good start to the year for us,' said Canadiens captain Brian Gionta, who returned after missing 11 games because of a lower-body injury. ``This January we knew was going to be a big swing month for us and that's the way we wanted to start. It was a pretty good effort all the way through.'
Vincent Lecavalier scored early in the first for Tampa Bay, which lost its third straight in Canada. The Lightning were outscored 14-5 in the losses at Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
``It seems tonight we didn't place our chips as well as we wanted,' Lecavalier said. ``Our forecheck wasn't as good as we wanted it to be and I think that changed it a lot because they broke out pretty easily tonight.'
Blunden scored his first NHL goal in 21 months to tie the score 5:44 into the second and Pacioretty got his 12th goal 93 seconds later.
The Lightning's skid follows a 3-0 homestand that capped a run of five wins in seven games (5-1-1).
Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos ended a five-game goal-scoring streak. He had eight goals during that stretch to take over the league lead with 28. Mathieu Garon stopped 25 shots for the Lightning.
Ryan Malone and Brett Connolly were back for Tampa Bay. Malone missed the first two games of the Lightning's trip with a lower-body injury. Connolly played his first game for the Lightning since Dec. 8 in his return from the world junior championships, where he helped Canada win a bronze medal.
A group of about 200 pro-French protestors staged a peaceful demonstration in front of the Bell Centre before the game. They were upset that Randy Cunneyworth was named as the Canadiens' first non-French-speaking coach in four decades.
Blunden drew Montreal even at 1 with a backhand from the left side that slipped between Garon's pads. He last scored for Columbus in a 4-3 loss in Detroit on April 7, 2010.
``I only had two before so it was definitely a special night to get one tonight,' Blunden said.
Pacioretty put the Canadiens up 2-1 at 7:17. Just moments after Price stuck out his pad to deny Martin St. Louis, Pacioretty took a long lead pass from P.K. Subban and settled down a bouncing puck before snapping a low shot past Garon inside the right post.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher used his timeout after Pacioretty's goal.
Lecavalier tipped Dominic Moore's shot from the right corner past Price 3:24 into the game for his 15th goal.
Montreal had a pair of goals waved off in the second. Tomas Plekanec was called for high-sticking before he scored 1:57 into the middle period.
Canadiens center Lars Eller, who had a four-goal, five-point game on Wednesday night, had an apparent goal waved off at 8:35. A video review confirmed the ruling that he had directed the puck into the net off his right skate.
NOTES: Lightning LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie played his first NHL game. He was recalled from AHL Norfolk on Friday. ... Connolly missed 11 games. ... Blunden, who began his career with Chicago in 2006-07, has three goals and three assists in 69 games overall. ... Canadiens C Petteri Nokelainen was left out of the lineup for the first time in 39 games.
The Associated Press News Service
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