MONTREAL — A slow start for the Montreal Canadiens turned the game into an uphill battle.
Backed by a 40-save effort by goalie Martin Jones, the San Jose Sharks snapped a four-game losing skid with a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night. San Jose scored two early goals in the first period and the Canadiens never recovered.
"They were the better team in the first period," said defenceman Jeff Petry, who scored the only goal for Montreal in the second. "We got better but that's something we need to do from the start. We've won one in our last seven so there's no reason we shouldn't be desperate as well to get points and move up in the standings.
"We need to go out and dictate the pace."
Montreal dropped to 1-3-0 on its current five-game homestand, which ends Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"They capitalized on a couple of early opportunities in the first period and that's on us," said Max Domi. "But when you run into a goalie like that, and he's seeing everything, you have to make it hard for him. We managed to do that on Petry's goal. Just not quite enough."
Both teams were playing a second game in as many nights. The Canadiens downed the New York Rangers 5-2 on Saturday while the Sharks lost 6-2 in Ottawa.
San Jose showed no signs of fatigue though. The Sharks were imposing, fast and physical during the game — especially in the first and second periods — and Claude Julien's men struggled to keep up.
The visitors needed just 2:55 to find the back of the net, with Justin Braun beating Carey Price after a bad giveaway by Petry in his own end.
With San Jose playing 5-on-3 hockey, Brent Burns made it 2-0 with a wrist shot from the slot at 10:29 to extend his point streak to four games.
The Sharks finished 1 for 4 with the man advantage.
"We didn't start the game on time," said Julien. "By the time we got going, the damage was done already and we couldn't turn it around.
"We just need to grow and become a better team as far as learning how to win and being ready to play every night from the drop of the puck."
The Sharks (13-10-5) have won seven straight, and 11 of their last 12, against Montreal.
The Canadiens (12-10-5) were better in the third period, outshooting San Jose 22-7, but they couldn't beat Jones.
The Sharks goalie earned his 10th victory of the season while improving to 7-1-0 in his career against Montreal.
San Jose was outscored 20-7 on its four-game losing streak coming into Sunday's encounter.
"We did a great job of eliminating those Grade-A chances and those odd-man rushes that have been causing us some problems," said Jones, who made a season-high 40 saves. "It was much better tonight."
Down 2-0, Petry made up for his earlier turnover when he scored at 12:15 of the second to cut the deficit in half.
Andrew Shaw had an assist on Petry's goal for his 200th career NHL point.
Joe Pavelski capped off a give-and-go with Burns and Logan Couture to make it 3-1 at 15:51 of the second, his team-leading 17th goal of the season.
"They came back and got one but there wasn't the sense of panic for us tonight," said Pavelski. "Jones was fabulous. He did a good job."
Price, making his fourth consecutive start in goal, stopped 26-of-29 shots in defeat.
Notes: Radim Simek made his NHL debut. … Timo Meier missed his third straight game with an undisclosed injury. … Former first-round draft pick Nikita Scherbak is no longer with the Montreal Canadiens after being claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Kings earlier on Sunday.