Habs play host to rival Maple Leafs

(SportsNetwork.com) - The first-place Montreal Canadiens hope to continue their recent mastery of the rival Toronto Maple Leafs when the Atlantic Division foes meet Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens lead the Atlantic with 85 points and have picked up wins in each of the last four meetings versus Toronto, which currently sits 30 points in back of the Habs in the standings.

Montreal has taken the first two of four scheduled encounters between the clubs in 2014-15 and the most recent meeting on Feb. 14 resulted in a 2-1 shootout victory for the hosting Canadiens. That victory was the third straight on home ice for the Habs in this Original Six series.

The Canadiens, who lead Tampa Bay by three points for the top spot in the Atlantic, enter tonight's encounter on a three-game winning streak. The club's two most recent wins came on the road by identical 5-2 scores.

Montreal slammed the Blues on Tuesday before earning Thursday's three-goal victory in Columbus. P.K. Subban had a goal with two assists in the easy win and Jacob De La Rose scored the first two goals of his NHL career, including an empty-netter in the closing minute of regulation.

De La Rose, a 19-year-old rookie, had only managed one assist through his first 11 NHL games before breaking through with the two-goal performance at Nationwide Arena.

"It's always fun to see young kids getting rewarded," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said.

Max Pacioretty potted his 30th goal of the season for the Canadiens, who boast an 8-1-2 mark over their last 11 trips to the ice. Carey Price earned a franchise-record 10th consecutive road win with a 25-save performance.

Although Toronto is well outside the playoff race in the East, the club has won its last two games. It marks the first set of consecutive victories for the Maple Leafs under interim head coach Peter Horachek. Toronto's previous winning streak came during a six-game run from Dec. 6-16, when Randy Carlyle was still behind the bench.

The Leafs recorded an overtime win over visiting Winnipeg last Saturday and made it a perfect two-game homestand with Thursday's 3-2 decision over Philadelphia. Toronto beat the Flyers despite yielding two power-play goals and getting outshot by a wide 49-17 margin.

Jonathan Bernier was the hero for the Leafs, coming up with 47 saves for the win. Dion Phaneuf also returned from injury to record the deciding power-play goal early in the third period at Air Canada Centre.

Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel each posted a goal and one assist for the Maple Leafs, who had lost five in a row before this mini-winning streak,

"We'll take the win but there is lots of room for improvement," Phaneuf said.

The Leafs will try to halt a 14-game road losing streak tonight. They are just 7-18-5 as the visiting team this season and haven't won as the guest since beating Boston on New Year's Eve.

Price is expected to start tonight for the Habs, who play their next game Monday in San Jose. Montreal's No. 1 netminder is 15-13-1 with a 2.67 goals against average in his career versus the Leafs.

With Toronto also playing Sunday in Washington, it's unclear if Bernier or James Reimer will get the start tonight.