CANADIENS (30-13-3) at RANGERS (27-14-4)
TV: NBCSN, RDS, SNE, MSG
NEW YORK -- Walking into Madison Square Garden on Thursday brought back some difficult memories for the Montreal Canadiens.
They thought of their most recent game here, a 5-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Nov. 23, a road trip that coincided with their annual moms' trip.
"That was a tough night," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said.
There was the Canadiens' final trip to the Garden last season, which happened to be their final game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs; a 1-0 loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final. They also thought of their 3-2 overtime loss at the Garden in Game 4 of the conference final after they climbed back into that series with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3.
Madison Square Garden hasn't quite reached house-of-horrors level for the Canadiens, but they haven't left the building with a positive memory in the regular season since Oct. 28, 2013, when they beat the Rangers 2-0.
That's a big reason why the Canadiens view the game Thursday as something bigger than just one of 82 in the regular season. They don't know when they'll be back here, but they don't want to leave on a sour note again.
"As a player, you like to feel comfortable in certain buildings and this is one we feel we might have to turn the page and start over," Montreal forward Max Pacioretty said. "Tonight is a good chance for that. We're going to see this team a lot being in the same conference, maybe in the playoffs in the future, so it's important to feel comfortable in this building."
New York, which has won 10 of its past 15 home games against Montreal, has a different reason to shed a greater light on the game: It doesn't want to let history repeat itself.
The Rangers are coming off a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday. The last time they lost to the Islanders (3-0 at MSG on Jan. 13) they followed it up with a 3-0 loss two nights later at the Boston Bruins. That two-game losing streak is the Rangers' only losing streak since they lost back-to-back games Dec. 1 and 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings.
"You gotta have short-term memory a little bit," Rangers right wing Martin St. Louis said. "You have to be able to turn the page and focus on the next one. You just have to find ways. This League is about finding ways, so we're looking to do that."
The Canadiens might as well be the poster boys for finding ways to win this season.
Montreal is 13-3-1 in its past 17 games despite getting outshot in nine of those games. The Canadiens have allowed 30 or more shots in nine of their past 17 games, including in four straight.
A major reason why the Canadiens have 27 points in their past 17 games is because goalie Carey Price has a .946 save percentage in 14 appearances over that span. He has faced an average of 30.4 shots on goal per game.
"We're so thankful we have him on our team and we know we have to play better in front of him … but there's going to be chances this season for us to put up a large amount of goals when he needs us to, so we're hoping to do that as well," Pacioretty said. "Don't want to take anything away from him because he's been amazing, every game he gets better and better, but we want to try to win and lose as a team and down the road we hope to bail him a couple of times as well."
The Rangers know the Canadiens' history of giving up a lot of shots and they see an opportunity to take advantage. Captain Ryan McDonagh said he's noticed Montreal takes a number of bad-angled shots resulting in rebounds that, with the right amount of pressure, can lead to odd-man rushes the other way.
"It's those defensive plays, those outnumbering situations in our own zone where we can gain possession and kind of jump on the offense," McDonagh said. "That'll be our focus here for sure."
Here are the projected lineups:
Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Dale Weise
Alex Galchenyuk - David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher
Jiri Sekac - Lars Eller - Brandon Prust
Michael Bournival - Manny Malhotra - Christian Thomas
Nathan Beaulieu - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Sergei Gonchar
Alexei Emelin - Tom Gilbert
Scratched: Mike Weaver, Gabriel Dumont
Injured: PA Parenteau (concussion)
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis
Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast
Tanner Glass - Kevin Hayes - Lee Stempniak
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Dan Boyle
John Moore - Kevin Klein
Scratched: Matt Hunwick, J.T. Miller
Status report: John Moore is back in the Rangers lineup after being scratched in five straight games. Hunwick will come out of the lineup. "I thought Matt's game last game was good but slightly under what he had been playing at so far, so I thought it was a good time to get Johnnie back in," Vigneault said. He called Moore the Rangers sixth defenseman even though he hasn't played since Jan. 13. … Stempniak, who was scratched against the Islanders on Tuesday, is back in, replacing Miller. … Dumont was recalled by the Canadiens after their game against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, but he is not expected to be in the lineup. Weaver will scratched for the 12th time in the past 13 games. He also missed five games because of an injury, so he has played in one game since Dec. 9.
Who's hot: Hagelin has goals in back-to-back games. He has also scored two goals on nine shots in two games against Montreal this season. … Galchenyuk has scored in three straight games and has four points in that span.