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Mike Blunden, Max Pacioretty score as Canadiens prevail

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens are off to a good start
in the new year.

Michael Blunden and Max Pacioretty scored in the second period,
Carey Price made 23 saves, and Montreal beat the Tampa Bay
Lightning 3-1 on Saturday night.

Erik Cole scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season, on
the power play with 17 seconds remaining, to seal the Canadiens'
second straight win.

"That was just an honest 60 minutes of hard work," Price said.
"Everybody was on the same page again tonight."

Montreal, which won for the third time in 10 games, got
consecutive victories for the first time since Dec. 10-13.

"It's a good start to the year for us," said Canadiens captain
Brian Gionta, who returned after missing 11 games because of a
lower-body injury. "This January we knew was going to be a big
swing month for us and that's the way we wanted to start. It was a
pretty good effort all the way through."

Vincent Lecavalier scored early in the first for Tampa Bay,
which lost its third straight in Canada. The Lightning were
outscored 14-5 in the losses at Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

"It seems tonight we didn't place our chips as well as we
wanted," Lecavalier said. "Our forecheck wasn't as good as we
wanted it to be and I think that changed it a lot because they
broke out pretty easily tonight."

Blunden scored his first NHL goal in 21 months to tie the score
5:44 into the second and Pacioretty got his 12th goal 93 seconds
later.

The Lightning's skid follows a 3-0 homestand that capped a run
of five wins in seven games (5-1-1).

Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos ended a five-game goal-scoring
streak. He had eight goals during that stretch to take over the
league lead with 28. Mathieu Garon stopped 25 shots for the
Lightning.

Ryan Malone and Brett Connolly were back for Tampa Bay. Malone
missed the first two games of the Lightning's trip with a
lower-body injury. Connolly played his first game for the Lightning
since Dec. 8 in his return from the world junior championships,
where he helped Canada win a bronze medal.

A group of about 200 pro-French protestors staged a peaceful
demonstration in front of the Bell Centre before the game. They
were upset that Randy Cunneyworth was named as the Canadiens' first
non-French-speaking coach in four decades.

Blunden drew Montreal even at 1 with a backhand from the left
side that slipped between Garon's pads. He last scored for Columbus
in a 4-3 loss in Detroit on April 7, 2010.

"I only had two before so it was definitely a special night to
get one tonight," Blunden said.

Pacioretty put the Canadiens up 2-1 at 7:17. Just moments after
Price stuck out his pad to deny Martin St. Louis, Pacioretty took a
long lead pass from P.K. Subban and settled down a bouncing puck
before snapping a low shot past Garon inside the right post.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher used his timeout after Pacioretty's
goal.

Lecavalier tipped Dominic Moore's shot from the right corner
past Price 3:24 into the game for his 15th goal.

Montreal had a pair of goals waved off in the second. Tomas
Plekanec was called for high-sticking before he scored 1:57 into
the middle period.

Canadiens center Lars Eller, who had a four-goal, five-point
game on Wednesday night, had an apparent goal waved off at 8:35. A
video review confirmed the ruling that he had directed the puck
into the net off his right skate.

Game notes
Lightning LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie played his first NHL
game. He was recalled from AHL Norfolk on Friday. ... Connolly
missed 11 games. ... Blunden, who began his career with Chicago in
2006-07, has three goals and three assists in 69 games overall. ...
Canadiens C Petteri Nokelainen was left out of the lineup for the
first time in 39 games.