Tampa Bay is one point ahead of Washington for the lead in the Southeast Division and is unbeaten in its last four games (3-0-1), 7-1-1 over its last nine and 10-2-3 in its last 15.
The Lightning moved ahead of Washington with a 4-2 win in Buffalo on Friday. Captain Dave Andreychuk scored his 611th goal to move past Hall-of-Famer Bobby Hull for 11th place on the all-time list.
“We’ve got 11 games left here. Each two points closes the gap for a playoff spot,” said Lightning center Brad Richards, who chipped in a goal and an assist. “That was our goal this year. So if we could keep grabbing those points, it gives us a better chance.”
Similar to last season, the Canadiens are putting together another late charge. They ended a last season 9-4-2 and have matched a season-high with three straight wins following a nine-game winless streak.
Montreal trails the New York Islanders by three points for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff berth. However, the Canadiens have played two more games than the Islanders, who visit Ottawa on Saturday night.
The Canadiens finished their six-game road trip with Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers. Richard Zednik had a goal and an assist and Jose Theodore stopped 26 shots for Montreal, which is winless in its last four home games (0-3-1).
“The last three games, we have six points” Zednik said. “We’re right back in the playoff race,” Zednik said. “It’s been a great road trip and now we have to keep going at home.”
Tampa Bay leads the season series, 1-0-1.