The Montreal Canadiens are trying to adjust to their new head coach, but the schedule hasn't been doing them any favors.
Last in the Northeast Division with 33 points, the Canadiens made the move on Saturday to fire head coach Jacques Martin and replace him for the rest of the year with Randy Cunneyworth. Montreal was bested 5-3 by the Devils in his coaching debut later that day and then dropped a 3-2 decision at Boston on Monday.
Erik Cole scored with 1:14 left to play to pull the Canadiens to within one, but they failed to net the equalizer. Tomas Plekanec also scored and Carey Price made 28 saves in Montreal's third straight loss and ninth in 12 games.
"We need to find our game and play a full 60 minutes," said Plekanec. "We're close, we just need to get some wins under our belt, especially with these close ones."
Montreal is 7-5-7 in one-goal games this year and lost the opener of a six- game road trip that carries the club through the rest of 2011.
While the Bruins lead the East with 45 points, the Blackhawks are tops in the NHL with 46. That makes for a challenging stretch for Cunneyworth, who finally got to run his first full practice with the club on Tuesday.
"It really is just about doing the little things. When we get away from the little things, it can go horribly wrong and I think against good teams they prey upon those little things," the coach said. "Right now we're just trying to get everything in order and continue to be more consistent with doing the little things."
With Montreal set to visit Winnipeg on Thursday, Cunneyworth said he will start backup Peter Budaj in net tonight.
The Blackhawks could also go with a different netminder, Montreal native Corey Crawford, after playing in Pittsburgh last night. Ray Emery started that game and allowed three goals on 28 shots in a 3-2 setback that snapped Chicago's season-high five-game win streak.
"We just got too far behind in the first two periods," said Stalberg. "We played better in the third, but it wasn't enough to dig ourselves out of the hole."
Toews netted his team-leading 19th goal of the season, tied for the second most in the NHL, while Marian Hossa had an assist to push his point streak to six straight games. He has four goals and seven assists in that span, pushing his season point total to 37, which is tied for sixth in the league.
Chicago begins a season-high five-game homestand tonight and will play nine of its next 10 at the United Center. It is 11-2-3 as the host this season, including 4-0-1 this month.
Like last night, the Blackhawks dominated the third period of their lone meeting with the Canadiens last year, outshooting them 20-9 in the third period of a 2-1 overtime loss in Montreal.
Montreal has won three of four and six of the past eight meetings overall, but has lost its last two trips to Chicago since its last win there on Feb. 27, 2002.