Tomas Plekanec stepped up his game when the Canadiens needed him the most.
The veteran forward scored twice and added an assist to give Montreal a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, extending the Habs' win streak to three games.
"He's going out there and playing solid defensively and creating offence as well," Alex Galchenyuk said of his linemate. "Happy to be playing with him right now."
With the game tied 1-1, Plekanec scored his first of the contest at 6:40 of the second when he went five-hole on Ben Bishop following a missed clearance by Tampa's Tyler Johnson.
The first-line centre got his second at 6:17 of the third to give Montreal a 4-1 lead, waiting out Bishop to beat the Lightning netminder from a tight angle.
"I had a lot of room in front, faked the shot and went around him," said Plekanec, who has seven points in his last three games (three goals, four assists). "It was pretty tight, I had a pretty bad angle, but I had an extra second to slide it through the post and in."
The 33-year-old added an assist on the game's first goal shortly after blocking a shot in his own end.
Right position defensively
"It all came from a great defensive play by Plekanec," said Brendan Gallagher, who took a pass from Plekanec at centre ice before firing home a bouncing puck top shelf. "He's in the right position defensively and it leads to offence. Doesn't happen if he doesn't defend the right way.
"He's playing really well right now. He's just consistent. He always takes care of his own men first. He's an easy guy to play with. Right now the pucks are going in for us."
Montreal (27-24-4) has won three straight for the first time in more than two months and jumped into 10th in the Eastern Conference as a result.
With 37 saves, Ben Scrivens earned his third consecutive victory after going 0-4 to start the season.
Scrivens had back-to-back wins over the weekend, defeating his former club Edmonton on Saturday and then Carolina on Sunday.
Valtteri Filppula and Victor Hedman scored for the Lightning (29-20-4), which have now dropped consecutive games in regulation time for the first time since Nov. 27-28 after a 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday.
Tampa fired 16 pucks on net in the third period but were only rewarded once.
"We were leaky tonight," said Tampa coach Jon Cooper. "When you're a little bit leaky, you're not getting the bounces you were getting in the past and we definitely have to tighten that up. It's been a little bit alarming.
"We're not going to panic over 48 hours. This is a humbling league. You can't get comfortable at any time. There's no panic mode for us."
Canadiens lose pair of players
Montreal lost defenceman Nathan Beaulieu and forward Brian Flynn to lower-body injuries on the same shift late in the second period. Neither returned for the third.
Beaulieu, who went down blocking a shot by Steven Stamkos, is day-to-day. Flynn, on the other hand, will miss six to eight weeks of action despite it being unclear what caused the injury.
With Montreal leading 1-0 after one, a failed clearance by P.K. Subban led to Tampa Bay's equalizer 40 seconds into the second. Hedman intercepted Subban's weak dump-out attempt before feeding Filppula, who used Ryan Callahan as a screen to beat Scrivens glove-side.
After Plekanec restored Montreal's lead, Subban made up for his earlier mistake on Montreal's third marker. With eight seconds remaining in the second, the defenceman's backhand shot on net went off Devante Smith-Pelly's shin and in.
Subban extended his point streak to seven games. He has at least one point in 16 of his last 18 games.