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PREVIEW: Streaking Edmonton Oilers start three-game set with Montreal Canadiens

Mar 20, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) looks for a puck in front of Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 20, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) looks for a puck in front of Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Stringing wins together hasn’t been an issue for the Edmonton Oilers this season.

That’s not the case for the Montreal Canadiens.

Looking for a fourth consecutive victory Monday night, the Oilers open a run of three straight games at Montreal, which is trying to win back-to-back contests for the first time since early February.

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Tied for first in the North Division with Toronto, Edmonton has won seven of nine and is on its fifth winning streak this season of at least three games. The Oilers, however, needed to overcome a 2-0 first-period deficit by scoring three times in the third for a 4-2 home win over Winnipeg on Saturday.

“We’re resilient. We figure out different ways to stick around and win hockey games,” said Oilers star Leon Draisaitl, who scored the go-ahead goal Saturday. “That’s a big part of making the playoffs, and I think we’ve done a great job of that this year. We have to keep that going.”

The Oilers hope to do so over an eight-day stretch that features five games at Montreal and Toronto. Edmonton is a combined 3-7-0 against those teams this season. After being outscored 8-2 by the Canadiens while dropping the first two season meetings at home in January, the Oilers got a 38-save performance from Mike Smith during a 3-0 victory at Montreal on Feb. 11, in the teams’ most recent meeting.

Smith, who made 29 saves on Saturday versus Winnipeg, is 6-1-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average on the road this season. However, he’s allowed seven goals in his last two starts away from home. Teammate Mikko Koskinen allowed all eight goals in the two 2021 losses to Montreal, but has a 2.07 goals-against average while winning four of his last six starts overall.

Draisaitl has eight goals and eight assists in the last 10 games, but only one point in three contests versus Montreal this season. Meanwhile, fellow star Connor McDavid has recorded 20 (seven goals, 13 assists) of his NHL-leading 60 points during a nine-game point streak. He has just two assists against the Canadiens this season.

Montreal, five points back of Edmonton and just trying to make the playoffs, is amid a 2-0-2 overall stretch — and 3-0-2 at home this month. The Canadiens beat Vancouver 5-4 in a home shootout on Saturday, marking the first time in 10 tries this season they won beyond regulation.

Now, Montreal will try to win back-to-back games for the first time since Feb. 1-2. The Canadiens’ longest winning streak of the season is three in a row.

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“Desperation mode is going to pick up here,” said Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher, who scored his 12th goal Saturday.

“You’re not always going to have the results that we had, but the effort needs to be there.”

The effort continues to be there for 33-year-old Montreal goaltender Carey Price (2.71 goals-against average), who allowed four goals on 18 shots Saturday, but has won three straight home starts. He made 34 saves in a 5-1 victory at Edmonton on Jan. 16.

Backup Jake Allen is amid an 0-2-4 starting stretch, but is 1-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA against Edmonton this season.

Montreal’s Tomas Tatar has a goal with three assists in the last three games. Two of his six goals on the season have come against Edmonton.

–Field Level Media