The playoffs cannot arrive soon enough for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa Bay, unbeaten in a team-record 12 straight, tries to take a step closer to the franchise’s first division title when the Montreal Canadiens visit the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Lightning have already guaranteed themselves no worse than the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and are on the verge of winning the Southeast Division, which would give them the third seed and home ice in at least the first round of the postseason.
Former Boston goalie John Grahame stopped 33 shots as Tampa Bay skated to a 2-2 tie with the Bruins on Monday.
“You’d like to get the two points as often as possible, but we are finding a way to stay in it until the end,” defenseman Dan Boyle said. “This wasn’t one of our best games.”
Center Brad Richards recorded his 56th assist of the season Monday, tying him with Brian Bradley for the single-season team record. Richards has one goal and seven assists in his last six games.
The Canadiens have been reduced to playing the role of spoiler with two games left in their season.
Koivu has played in all 80 games one season after treatment for abdominal cancer.
“It’s tougher and tougher to score goals in this league, so for me, 20 is not a bad year,” said Koivu, whose cancer is in remission. “Especially after last year because there was a lot of doubt about how many games I could play. It’s a positive thing and it feels good.”
STANDINGS (through March 31): Canadiens - 75 points, 4th place, 32 PB, Northeast Division. Lightning - 91 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Richard Zednik, 30 goals; Koivu, 49 assists and 69 points; Gordie Dwyer, 90 PIM. Lightning - Martin St. Louis, 33 goals; Richards, 56 assists; Vincent Lecavalier, 76 points; Andre Roy, 119 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 31): Canadiens - Power play: 14.1 percent (44 for 313), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (253 for 309), 24th. Lightning - Power play: 18.1 percent (69 for 382), 9th. Penalty killing: 83.2 percent (257 for 309), 15th.
GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Jose Theodore (19-31-6, 2 SO, 2.88 GAA); Garon (3-4-0, 2, 1.99). Lightning - Khabibulin (29-21-11, 4, 2.46); Grahame (17-13-6, 3, 2.44).
SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 2-0-1.
LAST MEETING: March 15; Lightning, 2-1. At Montreal, Ben Clymer scored midway through the third period and Khabibulin made 23 saves for Tampa Bay.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 14-18-3-5 on the road; Lightning - 21-8-7-3 at home.