Having failed to earn a point after clinching a playoff berth, the Montreal Canadiens are seeking to get their edge back while regaining sole possession of the Northeast Division lead.
The Canadiens will also try to avoid a season-high fourth straight loss when they host the slumping Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
Since securing its return to the postseason with a 5-1 victory in Buffalo last Thursday, Montreal has been outscored 18-8 in three consecutive regulation defeats. That failure to earn points opened the door for Boston to match the Canadiens’ 57 points on Wednesday.
The Bruins, though, currently occupy the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference because they’ve played one fewer game.
“When we locked up our spot in the playoffs we lost a little of that desperation,” coach Michel Therrien told the team’s website. “It’s our job now to find it again and build on it so we’re playing the best hockey possible when we start the playoffs.”
The Canadiens (26-12-5) couldn’t recover after falling behind 4-0 in the first 25 minutes against Pittsburgh on Wednesday and suffered a 6-4 defeat.
“We’ve got to get back to what was making us successful the start of the season,” said goaltender Carey Price who replaced an ineffective Peter Budaj “The last three games we haven’t gotten off to the best starts. They beat us right off the bat and got the ball rolling.”
Montreal will try to get back in the groove during the visit from the Lightning (17-22-4), who are 0-2-2 in their last four games and have dropped a season-high five straight on the road. Tampa Bay rallied from a 3-1 deficit Tuesday in Winnipeg but fell 4-3 in a shootout.
The result pushed the Lightning closer to playoff elimination. Tampa Bay is eight points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers and ninth-place Winnipeg with only five games remaining.
The Lightning would be officially eliminated if they trail by nine or more points after Thursday.
“We never give up no matter what. By no means are we going to pack it in the last five games of the year,” forward Steven Stamkos said.
Stamkos and teammate Martin St. Louis each remain five points behind injured league leader Sidney Crosby and they’ll try to move a little closer while ending Tampa Bay’s three-game losing streak to the Canadiens and a three-game slide in Montreal.
The Canadiens needed three third-period goals for a 4-3 win in the most recent meeting March 9, and blew a 3-0 lead Feb. 12 before prevailing in a shootout.
Lightning defenseman Sami Salo has three goals and four assists in his last seven games against Montreal. St. Louis has seven assists in his past seven matchups, while Stamkos, who ranks second in the league with 27 goals, has just four points (three goals, one assist) over his last eight.
Tampa Bay could start goaltender Ben Bishop who signed a two-year contract extension Monday. Bishop is 2-0-1 with a 1.25 goals-against average in three career starts against Montreal, playing all of those games while with Ottawa.
The Canadiens haven’t dropped four in a row since March 24-31.