MONTREAL (AP) — Jonathan Drouin picked the perfect time to break out of his lengthy scoring slump.
Drouin had a goal and an assist and Carey Price made 28 saves as the Montreal Canadiens beat the New York Islanders 4-0 Thursday night to remain in the hunt for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Drouin had not scored since Feb. 7, versus the Winnipeg Jets.
“It’s definitely a relief,” said Drouin, who did not have a point in his previous nine games. “It’s something you want. But it’s not something I thought about. You guys make stories more than me and you think about it more than me. I don’t listen to any of that noise. For me, it’s just to play hockey.”
The win came at the right time for the Canadiens, who are battling for a postseason berth.
Montreal (39-28-7) started the night one point back of Columbus in the conference. The Blue Jackets played the Edmonton Oilers later Thursday. The Canadiens are two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes, who lost 6-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Canadiens have won two straight after dropping two in a row.
“I think we needed that for our confidence,” Drouin said. “We kind of lost it over the past two weeks. Now we got our confidence back and we’re not scared to make mistakes. We’re playing to win. The last couple of games have been different.”
After a back-and-forth first period, Joel Armia gave Montreal the lead with seven seconds left in the frame when he beat Thomas Greiss between the pads from the slot on the power play.
Armia had never scored a power-play goal in 228 career games coming into Thursday’s contest. Montreal converted one of two power-play chances.
“A big momentum swing any time there’s a goal at the end of the period,” Islanders forward Anders Lee said. “And then we had two power plays right before that. Those are momentum swings in their favor, the way they killed them. And then they put in the goal at the end of the period. But it’s a one-goal game at that point.”
The Canadiens added to their lead early in the second period.
Shea Weber scored his 13th goal of the season with a slap shot to make it 2-0 at 1:03.
Jordan Eberle, who played despite dealing with an upper-body injury this week, had a chance to get the Islanders back in the game, but couldn’t solve Price. The Canadiens’ goalie stuck out his pad and made a nice toe save to keep New York off the board.
“We had some chances and we didn’t bury them,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s a little bit of frustration but you need to wipe it away. Price made some timely saves. That’s what great goaltenders do.”
Montreal made Eberle pay for missing that chance on the next shift. Drouin completed a tic-tac-toe pass play from Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi at the six-minute mark, snapping his 17-game run without a goal.
“He was frustrated because he wasn’t scoring,” coach Claude Julien said of Drouin. “If this allows him to get his swagger back, good for him because it’s the perfect time.”
Jordan Weal added a fourth for Montreal at 8:19 when he tipped Jordie Benn’s shot past Greiss.
Greiss gave up four goals on 22 shots. Robin Lehner stopped all 12 shots he faced in relief.
“We’re playing as a pretty good group and we’re using our assets like we should be,” said Price, who has 44 career shutouts. “If we keep doing that, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be successful for the rest of the season. We’re a tough team to play against when we play like that.”
NOTES: Armia’s power-play goal was the first of his career. … The Islanders managed seven shots in the third period.
Islanders: At Philadelphia on Saturday.
Canadiens: Host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
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