The Canadiens moved closer to clinching home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre.
Coupled with Tampa Bay’s 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars Saturday, the Canadiens moved four points ahead of the Lightning in the battle for second place in the Atlantic Division. Any combination of Montreal wins and Tampa losses adding up to two during the final week of the regular season will give the Canadiens home-ice advantage.
The Canadiens are in Chicago Wednesday night and finish the regular season with home games Thursday against the New York Islanders and Saturday against the Rangers. The Lightning plays host to Toronto Tuesday, then has home games against Philadelphia and Columbus before wrapping up the season Sunday in Washington.
“We’re shooting for that home ice and we want to win out there and climb as high as we can get,” Canadiens captain Brian Gionta, who scored twice in Saturday’s win to give him 17 goals for the season, told reporters after the game.
Max Pacioretty scored his career-high 39th goal Saturday and could become the Canadiens’ first 40-goal scorer since Vincent Damphousse during the 1993-94 season.
“People keep talking about 40, but I’m just worried about winning games,” Pacioretty told The Gazette’s Dave Stubbs after Saturday’s game. “I contribute to this team most by scoring. If 40 happens, it happens. If not, we’re in a good position right now. We’re in a good spot in the standings and we feel good about ourselves.”
The Canadiens are also feeling pretty good about defenceman Mike Weaver, who was acquired at last month’s NHL trade deadline. He had an assist and was plus-4 against the Red Wings and is plus-11 in 14 games since joining the Canadiens. He logged 19:19 of ice time against the Red Wings, more than P.K. Subban, who had 18:52.
“We like the way he plays,” Therrien told reporters after Saturday’s game about Weaver. “He has a lot of passion He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. We like the way he kills penalties. He’s always in the shooting lanes and he sacrifices his body. This is a great addition for us.”
Defenceman Alexei Emelin also had a strong game, credited with eight hits in 20:49 of ice time.
“It took him some time (after knee surgery last year) and that’s normal,” Therrien said of Markov. “We said we were going to be patient with him. Lately, he’s been really good and he works well together with Andrei Markov. He’s back where he was physically and he’s tough to play against.”
The Canadiens will practise at 11 a.m. Monday in Brossard.
(Photo by Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)
(Videos by The Gazette’s Brenda Branswell)