TORONTO -- The Montreal Canadiens finally had a good bounce go their way. And the faint light that represents their playoff hopes got a little bit brighter as a result.
"That was probably the best bounce we've had all season," goalie Carey Price said. "It was nice to be able to feel like we had luck on our side tonight."
Positive signs have been few and far between during a tumultuous season in Montreal. But there was a good feeling in the dressing room after the team completed a tough weekend by earning three of four points in the standings.
The 11th-place Canadiens remain well back in the Eastern Conference playoff race -- they trail eighth-place Washington by seven points -- but aren't ready to concede the season just yet.
"There's still a light at the end there," forward Lars Eller said. "There are more than 30 games to go and we still have a lot of faith in this locker room. We'll play one game at a time and see what happens."
Price finished with 32 saves, and Eller and Rafael Diaz added third-period goals for Montreal, which looked good despite losing a shootout in Pittsburgh a night earlier.
Matthew Lombardi replied for the Maple Leafs.
There was no sugarcoating the loss for a Toronto team that vowed to play desperate but couldn't quite match the effort of a tired opponent. The game was still up for grabs early in the third period when a problem with the glass brought on a lengthy delay. Montreal immediately seized momentum afterward as Diaz put them ahead 2-1 with a long shot through traffic.
"It's almost like that delay put us half to sleep," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "I thought we started the period pretty well. And we had that 10-minute delay and the next shift we ended up getting scored on."
Toronto missed a chance to leapfrog the Capitals for the final playoffs spot in the conference. It remains one point behind in ninth place.
"We know it's a big one," Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. "We talked a lot about how big this game was. We're definitely disappointed with the outcome."
- Montreal is 5-9-2 since interim coach Randy Cunneyworth took over last month.
- Gustavsson is 10-5-0 in his last 14 starts.
- Keith Aulie, Jay Rosehill and Darryl Boyce sat out for Toronto.
- The Canadiens scratched Petteri Nokelainen and Yannick Weber.
- Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman watched the game from the press box.