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Bruins-Canadiens Preview

AP - Sports

The rival Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens head into their first matchup of the season as two of the hottest teams in the NHL and fighting for first place in the Atlantic Division.

The Bruins will try to earn their 11th win in 14 games and maintain a slim lead over Montreal on Thursday night. The Canadiens, meanwhile, will seek to take over first place by extending their point streak to nine games and winning their fifth in a row at home.

Boston's division lead is due in large part to a 10-2-1 record in its last 13 games, but the Bruins (18-7-2) had that lead cut to just one point with Montreal's 4-3 shootout win in New Jersey on Wednesday.

David Desharnais scored the tying goal with 37 seconds left in regulation and was one of two Canadiens to convert in the shootout. Montreal (17-9-3) also scored a third-period goal in a 3-2 win over the Devils on Monday and improved to 7-0-1 in its last eight with the home-and-home sweep.

"We're finding ways to win games," Desharnais said. "They took the lead and we had to open up things."

Boston used two third-period goals for a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers on Friday but didn't need any late heroics the next night in a 3-1 victory against Columbus. While the Bruins will be well-rested for the trip to Montreal, the home team will be playing its sixth game in nine days.

Boston captain Zdeno Chara, however, didn't want his team to go too easy during its break.

"We can't really be complacent with what we've done," he told the team's website. "We have to look ahead and those games waiting for us are tough games and tough opponents."

Montreal has been tough on Boston lately with three straight wins in the series but all of those were one-goal or shootout victories.

The Bruins had won three straight at the Bell Centre before a 2-1 loss April 6.

"It is a special game because Boston is rivals with us and everything else, but we just have to focus on getting two points," Montreal goaltender Peter Budaj said.

With Budaj starting in Wednesday's game, the Canadiens will likely turn to Carey Price for this one. Price has a 1.80 goals-against average during a string of five consecutive wins, but hasn't performed as well against the Bruins lately.

He's 1-4-1 with a 2.40 GAA in his last seven matchups but stopped 26 shots in the home win in April. Boston's Tuukka Rask has fared even worse in the rivalry, going 1-7-1 with a 3.23 GAA in his last nine matchups.

Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban has two goals and five assists during a five-game point streak against the Bruins, and Tomas Plekanec has a goal and five assists in his last four matchups.

Patrice Bergeron has been particularly troublesome for Montreal defenders lately with two goals and five assists in his past two meetings. Boston veteran forward Jarome Iginla is playing in this rivalry for the first time and has six goals and three assists in his last seven games versus the Canadiens.

Montreal hasn't won five in a row at home since its season-high win streak Jan. 22-Feb. 3.

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