Habs aim to halt slide vs. Jackets

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Canadiens look to avoid a third loss in a row on Saturday evening as they play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bell Centre.

One night after a disappointing regulation loss to Ottawa, Montreal was defeated 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday by the Florida Panthers. It wasn't all bad news, though, as the Canadiens did grab at least a point for the seventh time in eight games (5-1-2).

The point earned versus the Panthers was big as it has the Habs one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who play in Arizona against the Coyotes tonight, for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Max Pacioretty scored for the Canadiens on a quick shot to start the second round of the shootout versus the Panthers, but Nick Bjugstad kept Florida alive as he cut across the slot and wristed a shot over Carey Price's glove. After Roberto Luongo absorbed Andrei Markov's shot to open the sixth round, Dave Bolland put an end to the game with a low shot through the pads of Price.

Brendan Gallagher provided both goals for Montreal in regulation and Price stopped 19 shots. Defenseman P.K. Subban extended his point streak to five games with an assist on Gallagher's second goal, giving him six helpers over that span.

"I thought we had a lot of scoring chances, but Luongo is a good goalie," Gallagher said. "We can do a better job of finding the net."

Already without defenseman Alexei Emelin and Sergei Gonchar due to injury, forward Alex Galchenyuk was a scratch versus the Panthers due to the flu.

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, try to extend their recent success on a five-game road trip, going 2-1-0 on the swing that ends Sunday versus the New York Rangers.

Columbus won its second in a row and for the fifth time in seven games overall with Thursday's 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It was the Brandon Dubinsky show for the Blue Jackets as he scored the winner while shorthanded with 2:17 left in regulation. That came after he dropped the gloves with Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby in the second period.

"Any time you get a chance to make a trade-off with one of the best in the world like that I'll take it," Dubinsky said of the fight. "He definitely surprised me a little bit."

Scott Hartnell extended his point streak to eight games with a goal and Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves for the Blue Jackets. Hartnell has four goals and 11 points over his streak.

"I thought our guys played hard," Columbus head coach Todd Richards said. "We did a good job of staying composed."

The Blue Jackets, though, are still 10 points out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and have lost three of their past four versus the Canadiens. That includes a 3-2 setback at home on Jan. 14.

It was a disappointing loss for the Blue Jackets, who allowed the Habs to score three straight power-play goals in the third period to steal the win. Pacioretty had two of the tallies, Subban lit the lamp and Price made 14 saves.

Montreal's No. 1 netminder moved to 3-3-1 lifetime versus Columbus with a 2.69 goals against average and .905 save percentage.

The Blue Jackets got goals from Ryan Johansen and Kevin Connauton, while Sergei Bobrovsky made 28 saves.

Bobrovsky is getting close to returning from a groin injury, but is not expected back until at least next week. That should leave another start for McElhinney, who lost his only other previous appearance versus the Habs 3-2 in a shootout on Nov. 15, 2013 despite 38 saves.