WINNIPEG - The Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets each had the opportunity to build some momentum with Tuesday night's game at MTS Centre.
The Canadiens did just that, finishing a long road trip a happy group by defeating the Jets 3-0.
Montreal wrapped up its four-game journey through Western Canada with a 3-1-0 mark and will now prepare for a five-game homestand that begins Thursday. Montreal has three consecutive wins and victories in four of its past five outings.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien started Carey Price, who made 39 saves Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks and was named the game's first star. Price continued his strong play in Winnipeg, making 36 saves in recording his first shutout since March 30 and his first on the road since Feb. 14.
"It was important for us to get off to a good start again this year," Price said. "Every day we're coming to the rink, we're preparing for the next game, and that has been the real key for this team, staying focused on the next game."
Montreal has dominated the series since the Jets moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011, winning seven of the teams' eight meetings. Jets coach Claude Noel admitted that the Canadiens present his team with a difficult challenge.
"They move the puck well," Noel said of the Canadiens. "They move it quickly. They play [an] east-and-west [style], so now you're stretching here and there."
Montreal also had time to scout the Jets. The Canadiens (4-2-0) arrived in Winnipeg two days ahead of the game having already won two of three games on the road trip. Montreal personnel used the early arrival to watch a desperate Jets team shut out the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
"We should take a good boost from [the win] and gain some confidence," said Montreal's Brandon Prust, whose goal 2:06 into the game stood as the game-winning goal. "We know what it takes to win. We've did it in the past three games. We learn from it and keep building."
After the win against the Devils ended a three-game losing streak, the Jets had an opportunity to build on the win in the midst of their six-game homestand. Instead, the Jets (3-4-0) have now lost four of their past five games. The Jets are tied for the most home games in the League, with five, but they own just two wins at MTS Centre so far this season, as last season's struggles on home ice have continued. Winnipeg has six goals in its past four home games.
"This one was a tough game," Noel said, "a game [that] certainly we didn't have much control over. Right off the start, they were in our zone, pretty much from the [opening] faceoff on. We chased the puck in our zone."
"We outshot them (35-25)," Noel continued, "but I think that's a misjudgment of the way that we played. We couldn't generate a whole lot. We got some shots on net. They blocked a lot of shots. We didn't get enough through -- we didn't get traffic -- and we struggled."
Winnipeg began the game needing a strong start against the visitors, but it was the Canadiens who dominated and set an aggressive tone early. Prust and P.K. Subban scored in the first against Winnipeg starter Ondrej Pavelec to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Montreal nursed the lead until offseason addition Daniel Briere scored his first goal with the Canadiens, hitting an empty net with 1:18 remaining in the game.
"It's unfortunate that it takes two goals to get a little desperation in our game," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. "You've got a find a way to get going right off the hop. I mean, there's enough energy in this building to do that and to start the game with the right intentions."
The Jets did not test Price early, failing to record a shot until seven minutes into the game, but the Canadiens' goaltender held the Jets scoreless through heavier Winnipeg pressure in the second period.
"I thought we did an excellent job of not allowing ourselves to get outworked," Price said, "and not putting anything less than 100 percent out. Any [shots] I didn't see, we blocked. Any rebounds I let out, we cleared."
Therrien, who noted that his team sagged during the second half of the game and lacked energy late, praised his goaltender.
"It's good for him," Therrien said of Price. "It's good for his confidence. Right now, I think that Carey is in a good zone with his confidence. When we had a breakdown, Carey did the job."
Pavelec finished with 22 saves in net for the Jets, who have supplied just four goals over his past four starts.
Although the Canadiens won and captain Brian Gionta returned to the lineup after missing one game to tend to a personal matter, the night was not all positive for the Canadiens.
Montreal's Max Pacioretty fell awkwardly after Winnipeg's James Wright pulled him down on a rush to the Winnipeg net at 13:02 of the first period. Pacioretty was helped off the ice favoring his left leg and did not return to play with what Montreal personnel termed a lower-body injury. Therrien did not have an immediate report on Pacioretty's status after the game.
Montreal pounced on the Jets immediately and pinned the home team deep in its own zone for the game's first two minutes. Heavy Montreal pressure paid off when Prust set himself up at the right post and backhanded Francis Bouillon's missed shot that caromed off the end boards under Pavelec's right pad at 2:06.
"It's tough when you start the game that way; your legs are burning," said Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian, who was caught on the ice with partner Jacob Trouba for 1:43 before Prust scored. "We just have to do a better job of protecting the house."
The Canadiens continued to exploit the Jets inside the Winnipeg zone and went to work on their first power play midway through the period. After several prime scoring chances during the power play, the Canadiens continued to apply pressure before Subban unleashed a hard, skipping shot from the point that beat Pavelec at 11:28. Subban has eight points in his first six games this season.