After losing eight of 11, the Canadiens (27-17-5) posted consecutive wins over division leaders entering the break to regain second place in the Northeast Division.
They snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over Southeast-leading Atlanta on Jan. 18, two days before beating Buffalo 4-3 to gain ground on the team they're chasing in the Northeast.
"It was definitely a big two wins for us, with the way we were struggling we just wanted to get one win out of the last two," Montreal right wing Michael Ryder told the team's official Web site. "We played well our last two games, we wanted to make sure we get back to basics and just try not to do too much.
"It's worked out well, we managed to get the two wins and I think the confidence is coming back."
Ryder scored the winning goal with 2:53 left against the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres after the Canadiens blew a three-goal lead.
Montreal, second in the league in power-play percentage, converted two of its five opportunities last Saturday after going 2-for-3 against Atlanta. The Canadiens have lost six straight games when failing to score a power-play goal, and have at least one in each of their last nine victories.
The Canadiens have lost five of seven on the road, but are visiting a Toronto team that has lost three in a row at home.
The Maple Leafs (22-21-6) entered the break on the heels of one of their worst losses of the season, 8-2 at Pittsburgh last Saturday. It was the most goals they've allowed this season.
Toronto gave up five power-play goals in the Penguins' 10 opportunities, one week after allowing five in a 6-1 defeat to Vancouver. In their two games between those losses, the Maple Leafs held the opposition scoreless in six power-play chances to beat Tampa Bay and Florida.
The Leafs led 1-0 after Jeff O'Neill's 16th goal 3:19 into last Saturday's game, but allowed the Penguins to score the game's next seven goals - three in the first period.
"Overall our play was not very good," Toronto captain Mats Sundin said. "I thought the first five minutes we played well. We looked good at the beginning tonight because we knew how important this game was for us. (But) we took too many penalties, and Pittsburgh took advantage of it."
The Leafs follow this contest with a season-high five-game road trip, starting Tuesday at Carolina.
Toronto is fourth in the Northeast Division with 50 points, nine behind Montreal.
Three of four games between these teams this season have been decided by shootouts. The Leafs have earned at least a point in each meeting, going 2-0-2.
|Apr 07 '07||MTL 5 at TOR 6||K. Wellwood|
|Mar 17 '07||TOR 2 at MTL 3 - SO||A. Kostitsyn|
|Feb 26 '07||TOR 4 at MTL 5||S. Souray|
|Jan 27 '07||MTL 1 at TOR 4||J. O'Neill|
|Dec 02 '06||TOR 3 at MTL 4 - SO||S. Souray|
|Nov 11 '06||MTL 1 at TOR 5||M. Stajan|
|Oct 28 '06||TOR 5 at MTL 4 - SO||K. Wellwood|
|Oct 07 '06||MTL 3 at TOR 2 - SO||M. Ryder|