The Montreal Canadiens exploded out of a five-game losing streak to beat division rivals Ottawa 6-2 on Tuesday and give interim coach Randy Cunneyworth his first taste of success.
Cunneyworth, who replaced the fired Jacques Martin, had lost his first four games in charge, but watched Montreal’s offense come alive on Tuesday as they rebounded from Zack Smith’s goal to score five in a row and grab the game by the throat.
“I think relief is one word, but obviously we’re pleased,” Cunneyworth told reporters.
“We expected it sooner, but going forward we want it to happen more often. It’s no secret, we had it in our minds that we were going to get the puck to the net,” Cunnyworth said.
Lars Eller, Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri scored in the first period to make it 3-1 before Louis Leblanc and P.K. Subban found the net in the second to pad the lead further.
“The floodgates opened for us,” Eller said.
“We got one, then two and we just kept going. It’s been a while since we’ve had that feeling,” Eller said.
“It doesn’t necessarily carry over automatically [to the next game], but it was big for us,” Eller said.
Ottawa’s Jason Spezza reduced the deficit to 5-2 in the second before Erik Cole scored the Canadiens’ sixth in the third period.
Goaltender Carey Price made 33 saves for the Canadiens (14-16-7).
The win moved the last-place Canadiens (14-16-7) within four points of Ottawa (17-15-5) in the Northeast.
Milan Michalek, out since Dec. 13 with an injury, returned to the Senators line-up and had an assist. Michalek led the NHL with 19 goals before sustaining a concussion two weeks ago.
RED WINGS 3, BLUES 2
Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall scored just 56 seconds apart in the third period to give the Red Wings a 3-2 comeback win over St Louis, lifting them over the Blues in the NHL Central Division standings in Detroit, Michigan, on Tuesday.
Datsyuk tied the game 2-2 with 8 minutes, 41 seconds left, deflecting White’s shot out of the air for his 12th goal of the season. Kronwall netted his eighth with a wrist shot from the left point with 7:45 remaining.
Nicklas Lidstrom also scored for Detroit, which won their 11th consecutive home game.
Matt D’Agostini and Alexander Steen scored for St Louis.
PANTHERS 5, MAPLE LEAFS 3
In Sunrise, Florida, Kris Versteeg and Jason Garrison scored power-play goals to help Florida beat Toronto.
Erik Gundbranson, Bill Thomas and Tomas Fleischmann also scored for the Panthers, who snapped a three-game losing skid.
Mikhail Grabovski scored twice, and captain Dion Phaneuf added one for the Maple Leafs.
Florida was 2 for 3 on the power play. Toronto was 1 for 4.
LIGHTNING 5, FLYERS 1
In Tampa, Florida, Steven Stamkos had two goals in Tampa Bay’s comfortable win over Philadelphia.
The Lightning went ahead 2-1 on Stamkos’ rebound backhand at 7:25 of the second. After Steve Downie scored at 11:41, Stamkos tied for the NHL lead with his 22nd goal, making it 4-1 with 1:15 remaining in the second.
Mathieu Garon made 31 saves, while Bruno Gervais and Vincent Lecavalier also had goals for the Lightning, who lost defenseman Victor Hedman in the first period to an undisclosed upper body injury.
Scott Hartnell scored for Philadelphia, which was outshot 32-16.
JETS 4, AVALANCHE 1
In Denver, Colorado, Evander Kane scored twice as Winnipeg handed Colorado their first home loss in a month.