The Detroit Red Wings are in position to extend the longest active playoff appearance streak of any major North American sports league.
Tuesday night's road game against the injury-ravaged Buffalo Sabres - whom they defeated four days ago to continue their dominance in the series - could help them move to the verge of clinching a postseason berth.
Detroit (37-27-14) is looking to reach the playoffs for the 23rd straight season, sitting one point ahead of Columbus for the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
However, the Red Wings had a four-game winning streak snapped with Saturday's 5-3 loss to Montreal, leaving them at 2-6-0 in their last eight away from home. Detroit held a 37-26 advantage in shots and scored twice on five power-play chances but Jonas Gustavsson stopped just 21 of 26 shots.
The Red Wings, who haven't missed the postseason since 1989-90, scored three straight goals in a span of 5:33 in the third period to tie the score at three before the Canadiens answered with two more in the next five minutes.
"We have to be better than we were tonight," coach Mike Babcock said. "We've been on a good run here where we play hard. I didn't think there was a problem with our energy or our commitment to working hard tonight. We didn't execute well enough with the puck."
Babcock's squad should have an easier time against the Sabres, whom the Red Wings are 22-2-1 with one tie against dating back to March 27, 1996. They've taken seven straight meetings, including three this season after a 3-2 home victory on Friday. All of Detroit's goals came in the first period, with Daniel Alfredsson recording a goal and an assist for the second straight game versus Buffalo.
That marked the second of three straight losses for the last-place Sabres (21-48-9) during a 2-13-1 stretch. While Marcus Foligno is expected to play and Chris Stewart and Torrey Mitchell also have a chance to return Tuesday, the injury bug hasn't yet let up.
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and goaltender Nathan Lieuwen are done for the season due to concussions suffered in Sunday's 5-2 loss at Philadelphia. Ruhwedel sustained a concussion on match penalty-drawing hit from Zac Rinaldo, while Lieuwen's injury will require Buffalo to dress its eighth goalie of the season. Matt Hackett - who is 1-3-1 with a 3.23 goals-against average in five starts since being recalled from AHL affiliate Rochester on March 17 - will start Tuesday.
Christian Ehrhoff will also be a game-time decision after taking a puck to the right ear Sunday. His 33 points are tied for the third most on the team.
The Sabres were outshot 37-19 by Philadelphia, the 18th time they've given up a margin of at least 15 shots this season. Cody Hodgson and Mike Weber scored for Buffalo in the third.
Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard has won all five career starts against the Sabres with one shutout and a 1.20 goals-against average.
Buffalo has scored a power-play goal in four straight games, but it has also surrendered seven on 24 chances over the last seven games.
The Red Wings have allowed two power-play goals on 19 opportunities over their last six contests.