CANADIENS (21-24-9) at ISLANDERS (22-22-8)
TV: RDS (HD), MSG PLUS 2
Last 10: Montreal 5-4-1; New York 6-2-2
Season Series: Thursday's clash at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum marks the third of four regular-season meetings between the teams. They split the first two matchups, with the Islanders claiming a 4-3 home win on Nov. 17 and the Habs responding with a 5-3 triumph on Dec. 13 at Bell Centre.
Big Story: The Isles and Habs are separated by only a point in the Eastern Conference standings, and collide on Long Island after each earning dramatic shootout victories on Tuesday night. Montreal squandered a pair of one-goal leads in regulation, but Tomas Plekanec scored in the eighth round of the shootout to lift the Canadiens to a 3-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. New York, which kicks off a three-game homestand, got 45 saves through 65 minutes and two more in the shootout by Evgeni Nabokov to beat the Flyers 1-0 in Philadelphia.
Canadiens: When the Habs and Penguins headed to a shootout on Tuesday night, recent history was not on Montreal's side. The Canadiens had only one win to show in eight tiebreakers this season, but Carey Price overcame a highlight-reel shootout goal by Evgeni Malkin and outdueled Marc-Andre Fleury to lift the Habs to their second straight win.
As Montreal hits the road for games on Long Island and in Toronto to close out the week, coach Randy Cunneyworth knows how a win over a premier opponent such as the Penguins can boost a team's confidence.
"I think more than anything, it's about pride," Cunneyworth said. "On nights when you're playing top teams, if you're not at your best, you will be embarrassed by them. I think that's what keeps you on top of your game."
Islanders: After ending a stretch of 13 consecutive road losses to the Flyers last month, the Isles rose to the occasion again Tuesday to make it two straight wins in Philly for the first time since 2007. New York was outshot 45-18 but found a way to win despite playing without injured defensemen Travis Hamonic, Milan Jurcina and Dylan Reese - who was hurt in the second period and did not return.
Frans Nielsen and John Tavares scored in the shootout to lift the Isles to their third win in four games since the All-Star break, but the game would have never made it that far had it not been for Nabokov's heroics. The veteran netminder made 20 of his 45 stops in the third period and overtime, then stopped both Philadelphia attempts in the shootout to complete his second shutout of the season.
"They were putting pressure on our [defense] all the time," Nabokov said. "Then we got short on the 'D,' but we stuck with the system. The boys were working their butts off, skating hard, and it was five 'D' for half of the game. They did a hell of a job by containing them and doing a good job. The forwards helped them out -- they have to collapse, so they collapsed when they had to."
Who's Hot: Nabokov has won seven of his last nine outings, allowing one goal or less in six of those decisions. … Montreal's Max Pacioretty was held without a point in Tuesday's win over the Pens, but has three goals and two assist over his last six games.
Injury Report: Andrei Markov (knee), Ryan White (lower body), Brian Gionta (bicep surgery), Petteri Nokelainen (upper body) and Mike Blunden (lower body) are on IR for Montreal. Yannick Weber (lower body) is questionable. … Reese (MCL sprain) is out four to six weeks. Hamonic (broken nose/facial surgery) is expected to miss two weeks, while Jurcina is day-to-day with a lacerated elbow. Marty Reasoner (broken hand), Mike Mottau (concussion-like symptoms) and Rick DiPietro (sports hernia surgery) are on IR.
Stat Pack: Nielsen is 20-for-34 in career shootout attempts (58.8 percent), the highest success rate in NHL history among skaters with more than 12 shootout attempts. The Isles announced Wednesday that the Danish-born center has agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension.
Puck Drop: "It's about time," Price told the Montreal Gazette after the Habs' shootout win over Pittsburgh. "[Fleury] was playing well, but we pulled out some moves we've been using in practice for awhile and they worked. The guys stuck to it even though we gave up a couple leads. We didn't get down ourselves. I thought [Tuesday] was a real positive."
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