MONTREAL - After struggling to find the back of the net over the past month, Max Pacioretty appears to be regaining his goal-scoring groove.
Pacioretty scored twice and added an assist to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-1 win over the NHL-leading New York Rangers on Sunday night.
It was his first two-goal night since Oct. 26 and upped his season total to 15, just two behind team-leader Erik Cole. Pacioretty also has three goals in his last five games after a 10-game drought.
"It's definitely a good feeling but I think, overall, our line feels that if we help our team win games, it's the best and most rewarding feeling for us," Pacioretty said.
Linemates David Desharnais and Cole also picked up three points each for the Canadiens (17-20-8), who snapped a three-game skid. Desharnais had a goal and two assists while Cole assisted on three goals.
Mike Blunden also scored for Montreal, which saw recently-acquired winger Rene Bourque make his Habs debut after serving the final game of a five-game suspension.
"I felt good early. I got caught out there a couple of times for about two minutes ??? but other than that I felt pretty good," Bourque said. "I wanted to take short shifts because I knew I was going to be tired a little bit."
John Mitchell had the lone goal for the Rangers' (28-11-4), with goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopping 24 shots.
"We had no structure defensively. That was our biggest problem," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. "As good as we were last night defensively, we were that bad tonight.
"A big part of our success as a team is our structure defensively and we had zero of that tonight."
Peter Budaj made 29 saves for just his second win of the season, and his first on home ice.
"(Budaj) played great," Pacioretty said of the Canadiens' back-up. "He hasn't played much, he's worked his bag off every day in practice and it definitely showed today. It's a great feeling for him. The boys really stepped up for him. We really wanted to get that one for him."
Pacioretty gave the listless Bell Centre some life with his 14th of the season at 2:39 of the first period.
After Mitchell evened things up late in the first, Pacioretty added his second when he deflected Cole's shot from just inside the blue-line past Lundqvist at 3:54 of the second.
"I think it's a great step for us. The Rangers have a great team this year and they're playing really good hockey," Budaj said.
After shortening his bench by choice in the second period, Canadiens head coach Randy Cunneyworth was forced to go with three lines for the better part of the third.
Winger Travis Moen was lost midway through the second with a lower-body injury. Replays showed an accidental collision with a Rangers player in which Moen appeared to injure his left leg.
Tomas Plekanec saw just four shifts in the third before something caught him in the face and ended his night. Both stayed out of the game as a precaution.
"It was tough but we were just rolling so much that it was hard to even notice," Pacioretty said of the depleted bench. "We had three lines going real hard, we had everyone forechecking, everyone on board and it made it easy for us."
Cunneyworth said the injuries were "not serious" and figures both could be back for Wednesday's game against the Washington Capitals.
Notes: Scott Gomez's assist on Blunden's goal was his first point since picking up a pair of helpers back on Nov. 19, also against the Rangers. ??? There was a scare early in the third when Mathieu Darche took a puck to the throat. The veteran winger eventually returned to the bench and the ice. ??? The Canadiens scratched defenceman Chris Campoli and centre Petteri Nokelainen. ... Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) and Ruslan Fedotenko (back) were out for the Rangers.