Montreal needs one point in its final two games to reach the postseason for the second consecutive season. The Canadiens have won 10 of their last 12 contests, including a 4-3 victory at Boston on Thursday.
Alex Kovalev had two goals and an assist for Montreal, which would have clinched a postseason berth if Atlanta didn’t beat Washington 5-3 on Thursday.
“This was a big game and big two points for us,” said Jan Bulis, who added a goal and two assists. “Of course we were looking at Atlanta. We saw the score on the board there at the top. It was a crazy game.”
Montreal is trying to reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1996-98, and its 42 wins are the most since the 1992-93 team posted 48 victories en route to its 24th and most recent Stanley Cup title.
“We’re playing about as good as we could, really,” Montreal coach Bob Gainey said. “We’ve needed that kind of streak to give us a chance to be in the playoffs.”
Buffalo is locked into the fourth spot in the East and saw its hopes to win the Northeast Division title end Thursday when Ottawa gained a point in a 5-4 overtime loss to Florida.
The Sabres have matched their single-season franchise record for wins, established in the 1974-75 season, and their 104 points are the most since totaling 110 in winning the Adams Division in 1980.
“For a team that a lot of the so-called hockey experts had pegged to be among the two- or three-worst, the guys have a lot to be proud of,” Sabres defenseman Jay McKee said. “But we’re not looking at records or stuff like that. We’re focused right now on continuing this kind of play to carry over into the playoffs.”
The Sabres have won four of their last five games, including a 3-1 victory Wednesday over the Canadiens. Maxim Afinogenov assisted on first-period goals by Taylor Pyatt and Tim Connolly for Buffalo, which has won four straight against Northeast opponents.