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Pacioretty scores 2 goals, leads Columbus past Montreal

MONTREAL (AP) — Max Pacioretty scored twice in the first period, and the Montreal Canadiens held off the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 on Saturday night to snap a two-game skid.

Tomas Plekanec added an empty-net goal for the Canadiens, and Carey Price stopped 32 shots for his 33rd win of the season.

Nick Foligno scored for the Blue Jackets, who got a 23-save performance from Curtis McElhinney.

Montreal, which avoided its first three-game losing streak since early December, is 32-3-1 when its opponents score two goals or fewer.

The Canadiens got off to a rare fast start when Pacioretty scored his team-leading 28th goal during a power play at 2:29. Down a skater, the Blue Jackets put little pressure on Montreal, allowing the Canadiens to dictate play for the duration of the advantage.

The goal was Montreal’s second on the power play in eight games.

Pacioretty added his second of the game at 13:03 to put the Canadiens ahead 2-0. He one-timed a feed by rookie defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. Pacioretty has four goals and two assists in his last four games.

Columbus made it 2-1 when Foligno beat Price at 14:05 of the first after forward Artem Anisimov drove hard to the net. After making the initial save on Anisimov, an off-balance Price kicked Foligno’s rebound across the line with his right skate.

Scott Hartnell came close to tying the game when he rang a shot off the crossbar. Cam Atkinson’s drive from the point with 1 second remaining hit both side posts and stayed out.

Andrei Markov gave the Blue Jackets hope late in the third period when he took a penalty for delay of game at 18:16, but Plekanec scored into the empty net.

McElhinney is 6-4-0 since replacing injured starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky who could return next week from a groin injury.

NOTES: Canadiens C Alex Galchenyuk missed a second consecutive game because of the flu. … Montreal defensemen Alexei Emelin and Sergei Gonchar are both out with upper-body injuries. … Columbus is 1-21 when trailing after two periods.

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