Dominance on the road has been key for the Montreal Canadiens during one of the best starts in the organization's 100-year existence. They're hoping a recent break in the schedule hasn't interrupted their momentum.
The Canadiens seek to win five straight road games for the first time in nearly 11 years on Friday when they resume a four-game trip with a matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Montreal (8-1-1) is off to its best start since opening 9-2-0 in 1976-77 and has won three straight, including a 5-4 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Alex Kovalev's second goal of the game completed a four-goal, third-period rally to help the Canadiens win the second game of their trip and improve to 4-0-1 away from the Bell Centre.
| Photos: @ MTL (2-23-08)
Video: @ MTL (2-23-08)
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Montreal has avoided a regulation defeat through its first five road games for the first time since starting 6-0-2 in 2005-06. The Canadiens and Buffalo are the only two remaining NHL teams without a regulation loss on the road.
Carey Price has contributed to the Canadiens' stellar play away from home, going 3-0-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average in four starts. He made 27 saves Saturday to give him a 2.27 GAA in winning three straight games overall.
Montreal hasn't won five consecutive road games since Dec. 31, 2007-Jan. 12, 1998, but to reach that mark, it must avoid a letdown following an extended break.
"There won't be any excuse for us not to be ready," defenseman Francis Bouillon told the Canadiens' official Web site, recalling Montreal's 6-4 loss to Anaheim after a four-day hiatus last month that halted a five-game winning streak.
"We came out flat against the Ducks after our last long layoff and it really cost us. That can't happen this time around."
Montreal has won both contests at Nationwide Arena and is 3-2-1 with a tie in the all-time series versus Columbus (5-6-2). These teams last met on Feb. 23, when the Blue Jackets came away with a 3-0 victory in Montreal.
Columbus' Pascal Leclaire made 31 saves in that game, but he's been limited to just seven starts this season with a sprained ankle and could miss at least another week.
His backup, Fredrik Norrena, hurt his groin Wednesday during the morning skate and missed a 5-4 home win over Edmonton later that night. His status for Friday is uncertain.
Rookie Steve Mason made his first NHL start on Wednesday, finishing with 22 saves to help Columbus improve to 2-0-2 over its last four games.
Columbus has also received an offensive boost from its young stars. Derick Brassard, the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft, tops all NHL rookies with a team-leading 12 points, while Jakub Voracek, selected seventh overall last summer, is tied for second among first-year players with 10.
Brassard scored a goal and Voracek, Mike Commodore and Raffi Torres each provided two assists against Edmonton.
"Brassard and Jake have been stellar doing their job, getting points on the power play, being strong offensively," center Manny Malhotra told the Blue Jackets' official Web site. "For Mason to step in and play his first game and make a lot of big saves for us, that's huge. I think that says a lot for our youngsters and the future of this team."