Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 2/1/12
The Montreal Canadiens' pursuit of a fifth consecutive playoff appearance has been slowed by their recent struggles away from home. Another road victory over the New Jersey Devils could help them get back on track. Montreal seeks its fifth straight victory in New Jersey when the teams face off Thursday night. The Canadiens have not missed the postseason since 2007, but they are tied for the second-fewest points in the Eastern Conference and are one of only five NHL teams yet to win 20 games. Montreal (19-22-9) is coming off a 3-1 home loss to Buffalo on Tuesday despite Carey Price's 37 saves. "He tried to steal one for us and we just didn't let it happen," defenseman Hal Gill said. Earning victories on the road has been a tough task as well. The Canadiens' 2-6-1 road record since Dec. 15 is second-worst among East teams, even though they've been tied or leading after two periods in their last six away from home. That slump dates to a 2-1 victory at New Jersey on Dec. 10. It was the Canadiens' fourth consecutive road win in this series after winning just twice in their previous 30 trips. Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole each scored in that contest, and Price stopped Zach Parise's penalty shot with less than a minute remaining. One week later, though, Pacioretty and Cole went pointless while Price tied a season high for goals allowed in a 5-3 home loss to the Devils. Those three standouts have been solid of late. Price has allowed two goals or fewer in five of his last six starts. Pacioretty scored Tuesday and has six goals with two assists over his last seven games, while Cole has two goals and seven assists over his last six. "They're great players and they're doing things right," Price told the team's official website. "They've got the speed and they've got the will to go to the net and that's how you get rewarded in this league. "Now we just need everybody to try to do the same thing." The Canadiens scored 14 goals in their final three games before the All-Star break and look to rediscover that scoring touch against New Jersey, which also is fighting for a spot in the postseason. The Devils (27-19-3) are among the top eight in the East following their league-leading ninth shootout win, 4-3 over the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Ilya Kovalchuk scored in regulation and added the lone shootout goal, as Martin Brodeur stopped all three attempts he faced. "When Kovy goes down and scores practically every time, that first goal on the first shot, the stats say that the team to get the first goal usually wins," said coach Peter DeBoer, whose team is 9-2 in tiebreakers. "That's always a big boost." The win ended a three-game skid for New Jersey, which faces Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the Rangers and St. Louis in its next four games following this matchup. "We've got a tough road ahead, and we've got to beat good teams in order to get in the playoffs," DeBoer said. Patrik Elias, who has 13 points in his last 10 games, scored twice in the last matchup with Montreal. Brodeur made 23 saves in that meeting to improve to 7-3-0 with a 1.72 GAA in his last 10 versus the Canadiens, though that record includes three straight home losses. The Devils have been outscored 13-4 while dropping the last four meetings in New Jersey, scoring one goal in each.
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