Carey Price's strong play has turned the Montreal Canadiens into one of the best home teams in the NHL. Another visit from the Ottawa Senators may pose a problem.
The Canadiens will try to avoid a sixth loss in seven home meetings with the Senators when the Northeast Division rivals face off Tuesday night.
Montreal (17-8-2) leads the Northeast thanks in large part to a 7-1-1 run at Bell Centre, during which the Canadiens have outscored opponents 27-12.
Price has started every home game during that stretch, compiling a 1.33 goals-against average and three shutouts in those nine games.
He made 26 saves Saturday while Mathieu Darche, Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri provided the offense in a 3-1 win over San Jose. Despite the home success, the Canadiens are a middling 5-3-1 in their last nine games overall, seeking consistency after winning consecutive games for the first time since a four-game run in the middle of last month.
"That's something we've been looking for," Price said. "We wanted to try and get on a bit of a roll and it's been kind of up and down — win one, lose one — and getting two in a row is nice."
Hosting the Senators (12-14-2), losers of eight of 11, would appear to be an ideal chance for Montreal to win its third straight. However, the Canadiens have dropped five of their last six home matchups with Ottawa, including a 3-2 defeat Nov. 6. Price is 1-3 with a 3.03 GAA in his last four home starts versus the Senators.
On the positive side, three of Price's eight career shutouts have come against the Senators, including a 19-save effort in a 3-0 win at Ottawa on Oct. 23.
Andrei Kostitsyn, tied with Plekanec with a team-high nine goals, has 10 goals and five assists in his last 17 games against the Senators.
'We've really struggled of late'
Ottawa is looking to win consecutive games for the first time since a season-high four-game winning streak early last month, which included the victory at Montreal. Perhaps beating the New York Rangers will spark the Senators for the second straight season.
Ottawa's franchise-record 11-game winning streak began Jan. 14 with a 2-0 victory at New York, and the Senators bounced back from consecutive shutouts to beat the Rangers 3-1 on Monday behind Chris Kelly's hat trick.
"Hopefully, this is the start of another good run for us," Kelly said. "We've really struggled of late, so this win is very important."
Ottawa may opt to give Pascal Leclaire a second consecutive start after he made 25 saves against the Rangers, improving to 2-6-1 with a 3.07 GAA in 11 games this season. He's won his last three games against Montreal, posting a 1.01 GAA and a shutout.
Brian Elliott was in net Nov. 6, and made 21 stops to win for the second time in three appearances at Montreal. He made all 29 saves in a 2-0 win at Bell Centre on March 22, but is 1-4-1 with a 3.17 GAA and two shutouts in his last six overall starts.