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Murray's presence helps Canadiens defeat Stars

by Arpon Basu /

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens are dealing with so many injured players they have had to intensify their focus toward the defensive end of the ice.

One player who recently removed himself from that injured list is helping the Canadiens do that, and the result was wins on consecutive nights.

Michael Bournival and Rene Bourque scored, and Carey Price made 26 saves to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 2-1 win Tuesday against the Dallas Stars at Bell Centre.

The victory came one night after the Canadiens and backup goalie Peter Budaj shut out the New York Rangers 2-0 at Madison Square Garden, a game when defenseman Douglas Murray made his Montreal debut after signing with the team as a free agent in August.

Though Murray had less of an impact in New York, his footprints were all over the win against Dallas with six hits and three blocked shots in 12 minutes of ice time.

"The last two games … it's been really good team defense," said Murray, who had to leave the game in the first period to get some stitches for a cut under his nose. "Whether it's been getting pucks out or blocking shots or being in position, it's been a good effort by the whole team."

The Canadiens did play a strong defensive game, blocking 29 shots, three more than Price. It was the second straight game Canadiens skaters blocked more shots than their goaltender, with Budaj making 27 saves and Montreal blocking 28 shots Monday.

"You can see guys want to pay the price to get some wins, and that's a great sign," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "When guys were blocking shots on the ice you could see the reaction from the guys on the bench. This is good for team spirit. They sacrificed their bodies to make sure we get the job done."

With the Canadiens missing a good deal of grit and toughness due to injuries to forwards Brandon Prust, Travis Moen and George Parros and defenseman Alexei Emelin, Therrien said the dimension Murray has brought is an important one.

"It's crucial," Therrien said. "He's a player that's very difficult to play against, and we could see tonight what kind of physical presence he is in the corners, in front of the net. If he has a chance to punish the opponent, he's going to do it."

Raphael Diaz assisted on each goal for the Canadiens (8-5-0), who evened their record at home this season at 4-4-0.

Cody Eakin scored for the Stars (5-6-1), whose string of three straight games with a point (2-0-1) was snapped. They have not won consecutive games since Oct. 5 and 11, their second and third games of the season. The Stars were also playing their second game in as many nights.

Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen got the start in a 4-3 win at the Buffalo Sabres and made 22 saves. He again made 22 saves Tuesday but with a different result, tagged with his second loss in regulation, his first since opening night Oct. 3.

The loss left the Stars 0-3-0 this season playing the second of back-to-back games.

"We've got to start finding a way in back-to-backs, especially on the road," Eakin said. "It's early but these points are huge. Points are only going to get harder to get as the season progresses."

It was a homecoming of sorts for several members of the Stars.

Dallas forward Erik Cole was playing his first game in Montreal since the Canadiens traded him on Feb. 26 to the Stars in exchange for Michael Ryder and a third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Unlike most former players who return to Montreal, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their departure, Cole did not get much of a reaction from the Bell Centre fans.

Cole did not give them much reason to react either; his line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn was more or less silent for much of the night, combining for four shots on goal.

"Our line just couldn't get anything going tonight," Seguin said. "We've got to be better and step up a lot more than we did, show more leadership in these back-to-back games."

It was the first NHL game on Quebec soil for Stars forwards Alex Chiasson and Antoine Roussel. Chiasson spent his early childhood living just outside Montreal in Lorraine, Quebec; Roussel was born in France but moved to Quebec as a teenager.

Chiasson had more than 50 family and friends in the stands and he nearly gave them something to cheer for in the third period when he took a pass from Eakin and one-timed it from in tight, but Price was able to get across for the save.

Chiasson finished with a game-high five shots on goal, one more than the Seguin line combined, and was the Stars' most-used forward at 19:54 of ice time. The rest of the team did not have the same effectiveness, though coach Lindy Ruff was satisfied with the effort.

"It was a pretty hard-fought game. They got a bounce on the first goal going wide, I thought we did a good job killing off their power plays," Ruff said. "They did a great job being in shot lanes and blocking shots. It was probably a game we could have come out of here with points."

That bounce on the Canadiens' first goal came at 12:02 of the first period when a Diaz shot from the point was tipped in front by Bournival before going in off the leg of Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas.

Bournival's goal gave the rookie seven points in his past seven games; center Tomas Plekanec's assist on the goal gave him nine points in his past seven games.

"That's an important line for us," Therrien said of the group completed by captain Brian Gionta. "Not only are they able to produce offensively, but they often have the mandate of checking the best line on the other team. So they're playing very well. Bournival seems to give some energy to our two veterans, and I like what I'm seeing from that line because they play an important role."

Bourque made it 2-0 at 12:55 of the second period, tipping another Diaz point shot in front then burying his rebound for his fourth goal of the season.

The Stars cut the lead in half at 17:27 of the second when Eakin crossed the Montreal blue line and used Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban to surprise Price with a long wrist shot for his third goal of the season.

Eakin had an opportunity to tie it when he took a wrist shot from just about the same location with 45 seconds remaining, but this time Price made a glove save.

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