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On a roll

Habs complete perfect road trip with first pair of consecutive wins since early January

by Steven Nechay @canadiensmtl /

NEWARK -- The Canadiens never led on Monday, except when it mattered most.

And for a second-consecutive game, they earned a little breathing room in the Atlantic Division playoff race, during the time of year when it also matters most.

"Unbelievable. We play in a great city that expects a lot from us, and we have high expectations of ourselves too," shared goaltender Al Montoya, whose 34 saves helped propel the Habs past the Devils on a night when the second-place Senators lost in Tampa. "Hats off to these guys for being able to go out there, and doing what they did tonight. Going into the third period late, [to get goals like that from] the captain - the hero - it was fantastic all around."

Fantastic, because following a strong game in Toronto, for a moment it looked like the team which had not won consecutive games since early January would be back to square one in New Jersey.

But instead, the Habs followed up on a scoreless opening 40 with a trio of goals in the third, to battle back from two-goal deficits twice, and send the game to OT.

"Going into the third period, we were down by one, but still in the game," continued Montoya. "We hadn't played our best hockey yet, so as a group we knew we could be better. Our leadership stepped up, and at the end of the day that's the story."

Indeed, how's this for leadership? Less than six minutes after Alexander Radulov got the Canadiens onto the board at 2:49 in the third, captain Max Pacioretty followed up with his 30th and 31st goals of the season to force extra time.

"It's two huge points for us. It took us two periods to get it working, but we accomplished a lot in the third," stressed head coach Claude Julien, who improves to 3-2-0 on the season with Montreal. "We showed a lot of character. When they went up 2-0 [early in the third], it would have been easy for us to give up, but instead we got one right back. I imagine it's been tough for the guys in here recently, but tonight was a big character win for us."

Pacioretty credits that character to his linemate Radulov, who not only provided the initial spark on offense, but also picked up points on each of the goals which ensued, including the overtime winner by Alex Galchenyuk.

"The great individual effort on his goal got the boys going," described the Habs captain of Radulov. "Sometimes when confidence is down, it only takes that one play, and that's why we signed him. He's a game changer and a difference maker - and he showed that tonight."

Now only time will tell if Monday's game in New Jersey will likewise go down as a difference maker for the Canadiens, following a tough month of February.

"This is the best time of the year. I've played in the playoffs once in my life, but now it's the playoffs every game," concluded Montoya, who earned a second win in New Jersey on Monday to complete the season sweep of the Devils. "This is fantastic, and now we get to go home and play in front of our great fans. We'll enjoy this for a minute and then we'll move on."

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