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Pacioretty leads Canadiens past Maple Leafs

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty knows how to break a slump.

Pacioretty scored twice, had an assist and had a game-high 10 shots on goal in theMontreal Canadiens' 4-2 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Pacioretty has seven goals in his past six games after going eight games without scoring, continuing a trend he's shown in the past. Last season Pacioretty went 10 games without a goal and followed that with eight in as many games. In 2011-12 he had another goal drought of 10 games before breaking it with a run of 14 goals in 20 games.

"Confidence is huge, and it's not just confidence for shooting the puck, it's confidence with reading the play," Pacioretty said. "When I'm thinking too much I probably don't get those chances, so it's good to go out there and not think and just play my game."

P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec also scored for the Canadiens (15-9-3), who are undefeated in regulation in their past six games (5-0-1). Montreal also allowed two goals or fewer in a 10th straight game; it's 7-1-2 during that span.

Carey Price has been the starter for seven of those 10 games and made 34 saves, including all 12 shots he faced in the third period when the Maple Leafs pressed to tie the game after scoring twice in 22 seconds late in the second to cut a four-goal deficit in half.

Price said the reason he and backup Peter Budaj are having so much success this season is because of the Canadiens' defensive play, and he refused to take much credit for it himself.

"I'm going to keep emphasizing that," Price insisted. "We're playing excellent hockey in front of me. We're putting out 100 percent effort every night. There's no quit. That's been the key to our success so far."

The Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings are tied at 33 points in the Atlantic Division, but Montreal moved past Detroit into third because it has one more non-shootout victory.

The Maple Leafs (14-10-3) are moving in the opposite direction, falling to 1-3-2 in their past six games.

James Van Riemsdyk and Mason Raymond scored late in the second for Toronto, but the Maple Leafs weren't able to carry that momentum into the final period.

"We need points now, they're as important now as they are at the end of the season," Raymond said. "We keep saying we need to learn from these, but we really do."

Toronto was outshot 39-36, marking the eighth straight game and 23rd time in 27 games this season that the Maple Leafs have allowed more shots than they've taken. Toronto is allowing a League-high 35.9 shots per game.

Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier, a native of suburban Laval, Quebec, was visibly disappointed when he didn't get the start in his hometown for Toronto's 4-3 win at Bell Centre on opening night, but his second career start in Montreal did not go very well with four goals allowed. It was the third straight start in which Bernier allowed at least four goals, with his save percentage over that span at .887.

"I've got to be better. Obviously giving up four goals, I need to find a way to keep it a tight game," Bernier said. "I've just got to re-focus. It's a long season and there's going to be lots of ups and downs. I've just got to find a way to get my game back."

Later, while speaking to French reporters, Bernier said the Maple Leafs' tendency to consistently get outshot in games was bound to catch up to them.

"If you look at our games we've been giving up a lot of shots, and at a certain point you can't have luck on your side all season," he said. "There will be highs and lows, and right now we need to find the little spark we had at the beginning of the season and be excited to come play hockey and find a way to score. If we give up four then score five. I think that's what we had at the beginning of the season."

The game couldn't have started much worse for the Maple Leafs, with Carl Gunnarsson called for interference 20 seconds after the opening faceoff. Toronto's top penalty-killing unit then allowed Pacioretty to get in behind them to take a long stretch pass from Subban and go in alone on goal. Bernier stopped his first, second and third shots before Pacioretty finally scored on his fourth attempt at 58 seconds.

"I thought shoot because sometimes you get a second crack at it," Pacioretty said. "In that case I got four cracks at it."

Toronto appeared to tie the game at 5:35 when Dion Phaneuf beat Price with a shot from the blue line, but referee Chris Rooney immediately waved off the goal for incidental contact by van Riemsdyk, who was just inside the blue paint. Though van Riemsdyk didn't appear to make contact with Price, the NHL rulebook states a goal will be disallowed if "an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal."

The Canadiens made it 2-0 at 16:13 of the first when Subban moved in from the blue line off a faceoff, deked around Phil Kessel and beat Bernier high to the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Kessel came within an inch of making up for the error in the first minute of the second period when he had Price completely out of position and backhanded the puck toward an open net, only to have it hit the inside of the post and bounce out.

The Canadiens went up 3-0 at 15:05 when Plekanec, Daniel Briere and Brian Gionta had a dominant shift in the Toronto zone, resulting in Briere setting Plekanec up for his ninth goal of the season. Pacioretty made it 4-0 with a shorthanded goal at 17:22, deking Gunnarsson to the middle and sliding a backhand through Bernier's legs.

The Maple Leafs got a big lift late in the period by scoring two goals in 22 seconds. The first, at 18:10, was a beautiful flip shot under the crossbar by van Riemsdyk for his 12th goal of the season, the second came when Raymond found a rebound to the right of Price at 18:38 to make it 4-2.

But the Canadiens were able to prevent those 22 seconds from costing them the game.

"There was no doubt they gained some momentum from that," Subban said. "I thought we did a good job, from the coaching staff to our meeting before the third period to the players coming out and executing and nullifying it and making sure that in the first five minutes of the period we were getting pucks deep and doing the right things."

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