The Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins will renew one of the NHL's greatest rivalries, spiced up with both teams currently occupying playoff spots, when they meet for the second time this season at Bell Centre on Saturday.
The Canadiens defeated the Bruins 3-0 in Boston on Oct. 27. Both teams are in back-to-back situations with the Canadiens coming off a 3-2 loss in overtime to the Sabres in Buffalo Friday. The Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in overtime in Boston.
The Canadiens (11-7-5) surrendered a goal with 2:26 remaining to allow the Sabres to tie the game and lost on Jeff Skinner's winner on the power play with 1:54 left in overtime.
The point gained in the loss allowed the Canadiens to remain one point behind the Bruins (12-6-4) in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bruins hold the first wild card position and the Canadiens the second spot in the Eastern Conference.
"They're a team in our division and those are important points," Montreal coach Claude Julien told NHL.com after the game against the Sabres. "We had control of the game there until the last two and a half minutes when they tied the game up. I thought we played a good, sound game overall. We were much better defensively, but discipline at the end, we take a penalty ... and failing to clear the puck at times, and it ended up in the back of our net."
Consistency has been an issue for the Canadiens, who are 4-3-3 in their past 10 games.
"Obviously we didn't get the result we wanted to but I think we got better as the game went on, and again lose some puck battles in front of the net to just put us behind the eight ball," Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw told NHL.com.
The Bruins, playing without five regulars, will be looking to improve their play on the road. The win over the Penguins was their eighth in 10 homes games; they are 4-4-4 on the road this season.
The Bruins got a strong effort from former Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak against the Penguins. He made 36 saves as the Bruins have a string of four games with a point (2-0-2).
"I mean we're going to be a tough team to beat -- any team would be, if both their goalies are going well," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told NHL.com. "Let's face it, we knew we had Tuukka (Rask) and (Jaroslav) Halak ... we've said all along, we thought (Halak would) be a very good backup. He's been a starter in this league, so that's an area we feel we have covered, goaltending."
With top center Patrice Bergeron out, Cassidy used rookie Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson on the top line between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and the unit kept Penguins star Sidney Crosby off the scoresheet.
"He battled," was the way Cassidy described Forsbacka Karlsson's play to the Boston Herald. "Listen, he's seven games in. Two games ago I was concerned he could handle a third-line role. I just saw some growth in Detroit so I said 'Well, let's see if he can take another step against Crosby.' He's got two good wingers with him offensively, but if he could take care of the defense thing ... listen, they had some chances. I know our goaltending had to come through. It usually does. But to keep them at no 5-on-5 goals, you've got to give credit to everybody on the ice against a good offensive and he was a part of that."
The Bruins got the winner from Joakim Nordstrom at 1:57 of overtime Friday, who has four goals, two more than he had all of last season with the Carolina Hurricanes.
It was a gritty win for the Bruins heading into their rivalry game against the Canadiens.
"That was huge," Nordstrom told The Herald. "We've fought hard in OTs in a few games before and we weren't able to get the extra point. We had some discussions about it before this game and we're all happy it ended this way."