Since Jan. 4, a span covering 24 games and two different head coaches, the up and down Montreal Canadiens are remarkably consistent in one area.
When the Canadiens score three goals or more, they win. When they score fewer than three, they lose.
That two-month trend will be put to the test again Monday night when the Canadiens (33-21-8) visit the Prudential Center to face off against the New Jersey Devils (25-25-11).
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Beginning with a 4-3 road victory over the Dallas Stars on Jan. 4, the Canadiens have won all 10 games in which they scored at least three times. In that same span, Montreal is 0-12-2 in the 14 contests it has recorded two or fewer goals.
That has put a lot of extra pressure on the team's defense and goaltending; and the Canadiens sub-.500 record in this stretch is proof of that wear and tear. Even Carey Price, the team's heralded No. 1 netminder, has buckled a bit recently, though his 32-save performance in Saturday's 3-2 overtime victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs is the latest example that he is finding solid footing yet again.
"That's the Carey Price we've got used to seeing, and it's nice to see him back playing that same way," head coach Claude Julien said to reporters after the win Saturday. "He's given us a chance to win, and he's also given us confidence because we know if there's a breakdown, he's making the save."
Price has started all four games since Julien replaced Michel Therrien as Canadiens coach, allowing 10 goals. He was brilliant with a 28-save performance in Montreal's 3-2 shootout road victory over the New York Rangers last week; and earned his 259th career win Saturday to pass Ken Dryden for third place on the Canadiens' all-time victories list.
"Ken is the first Hab I met," Price said to TSN 690. "I was around 8 ... I met him in Williams Lake. I got his autograph on a piece of paper I still have today. He's a very special human being."
The Canadiens seek a season series sweep over the struggling Devils with a win Monday, following a 5-2 victory in Montreal on Dec. 8 and a 3-1 triumph Jan. 20 in New Jersey.
Having lost three in a row and four of their last five, the Devils are desperate for a victory of any kind.
They had a seemingly favorable schedule in the month of February, playing nine of 11 games on home ice.
New Jersey is just 3-4-1 so far this month at the Prudential Center, and, as such, its playoff prospects are remote at best sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
"Monday's game is important, they're all important for us to try and continue to play well and find a way to get points," Devils coach John Hynes said. "We have a good team coming in Monday, so we have to be ready to play."
New Jersey's most recent loss was an extremely difficult one to stomach. The Devils erased a 2-0 deficit against the Rangers on Saturday, eventually taking a 3-2 lead early in the third period on a pair of Kyle Palmieri goals before seeing the Rangers rally to win the contest, 4-3, in overtime.
"We gave up the lead at the end, but there were some positives for sure," said Palmieri, who leads New Jersey with 18 goals.
Hynes also praised the Devils' effort Saturday, though veteran center Adam Henrique did say, "we have to find that killer instinct."
Monday's contest will be the last for the Devils before Wednesday's trade deadline. The Canadiens will skate against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday ahead of the deadline.