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Pacioretty scores twice, Canadiens top Blue Jackets

by Sean Farrell /

MONTREAL -- Closing in on a third 30-goal season, Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty is much more focused on keeping track of a team-oriented statistic.

Pacioretty scored twice in the first period, and Carey Price made 31 saves in Montreal's 3-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bell Centre on Saturday.

Pacioretty, who scored a career-high 39 goals last season, leads the Canadiens with 29 goals, four multigoal games and 15 multipoint games.

"Tell me how many wins we have, and that's my milestone this year," Pacioretty said. "It feels so good when we win and this team's special, and I really mean that, and it's a lot of fun winning with this group."

Montreal (38-16-5) leads the Eastern Conference with 81 points.

Curtis McElhinney made 21 saves for Columbus (26-28-3), which was on a 5-2-0 run.

"I thought both goaltenders played well," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "Their goalie made some big saves too, and Curtis made some big saves for us. I think that's what he's been doing, so we've come to expect Curtis to play at that level."

Pacioretty scored on a power play at 2:29. His second goal of the game put the Canadiens up 2-0 at 13:03.

Columbus left wing Nick Foligno scored at 14:05 to make it 2-1.

Montreal center Tomas Plekanec scored a shorthanded, empty-net goal with 50 seconds remaining in the third period.

Blue Jackets left wing Scott Hartnell's point streak ended at eight games. He had four goals and seven assists during the streak, which was the longest in the NHL and tied his career high.

Each of Pacioretty's goals came on a one-timer from the right side off a pass from a Canadiens defenseman.

Andrei Markov made a clever pass to set up Pacioretty's first goal, a snap shot past McElhinney into the top left corner.

Moments earlier, a shot by Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban got through the Blue Jackets goalie but trickled wide of the left post after Columbus defenseman Kevin Connauton was penalized for tripping Montreal right wing Brendan Gallagher at 1:34.

Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu made a cross-ice pass to Pacioretty on Montreal's second goal, which came five seconds after center David Desharnais won a faceoff from the left dot in the Columbus zone.

"To have the wheels to pick up that puck and to go along the wall and have your head up and make a play, that's world class and hopefully a play like that can carry over as the season goes on because the sky's the limit for that kid and he played great [Saturday]," Pacioretty said.

Pacioretty has scored three of his five power-play goals against the Blue Jackets. He scored two of Montreal's three power-play goals 3:53 apart in the third period Jan. 15 when the Canadiens overcame a two-goal deficit for a 3-2 win at Nationwide Arena.

"Max is so good at getting in those soft areas," said Beaulieu, who had 23:45 of ice time. "He did it on the first goal, and a goal-scorer knows where to go in the area, so I just had to feed it. It was a great shot, so good job for him."

Beaulieu's ice time has increased with defensemen Alexei Emelin and Sergei Gonchar each sidelined by an upper-body injury.

Selected by Montreal in the first round (No. 17) of the 2011 NHL Draft, Beaulieu had a career high 25:10 on Thursday in a 3-2 shootout loss against the Florida Panthers after playing 24 minutes Wednesday in a 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre. He has played at least 20 minutes seven times, all this season, in 67 games in the League over the past three seasons; the most ice time he had prior to the past three games was 22:03 on Jan. 10.

"He's a fantastic skater, and with his confidence he's capable to make better decisions," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "And he's showing a lot more poise than he did earlier in the season, so that's a good thing for him."

Foligno scored Columbus' goal 1:02 after Pacioretty made it 2-0. Price stopped Artem Anisimov's intial shot, and the rebound deflected off Foligno's skate on its way into the net. The goal was confirmed by a video review.

Foligno's 23 goals lead Columbus.

"We got through the first period, and I thought once we hit the second and third we were playing our game," Richards said. "And you've got to give credit to them because they played a hard game too."

Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson's shot from the point struck both posts without crossing the goal line with one second remaining in the second.

"It's always tough losing close games, and we had some opportunities where Price either made some great saves or we just missed," Columbus center Ryan Johansen said. "Look at Cam's opportunity where it hits both posts, that could have been a difference maker. It was a good game; give them credit. They're a good team and they played well and did a lot of good things, and we were unable to tie it up, so that's the way she went tonight."

Montreal defenseman Jarred Tinordi had a jaw protector added to his helmet after his fight with 3:58 left in the first against Blue Jackets right wing Jared Boll, who was penalized for roughing in addition to his fighting major.

"I think the doctors just wanted to make sure that I didn't take another shot in the chin or something, a stick or something like that," Tinordi said.

Canadiens left wing Alex Galchenyuk missed his second game in a row because of the flu.

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