The race between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens for the Northeast Division title looks like it may go down to the wire. The two rivals will meet for the final time this regular season as they clash on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens are the current division leaders with 53 points, one ahead of the Bruins with 11 games to play. Boston has 12 contests left on its schedule and both teams currently have 24 wins.
The Bruins took the first meeting of the season between the clubs in Montreal on Feb. 2 to push their series winning streak to five straight overall and three in a row at the Bell Centre, but the Habs have responded with a pair of wins in Boston.
The Canadiens escaped with a wild 6-5 shootout victory in the most recent encounter on March 27. Boston scored four straight goals in the second period and Tyler Seguin's goal with 8:10 left in the third period had the Bruins up by two, but Brendan Gallagher and Andrei Markov capped a three-goal frame for the Canadiens with goals to force overtime, with Markov lighting the lamp on the power play with 8.2 seconds on the clock.
Gallagher then had the lone goal of the six-round shootout.
Montreal starter Carey Price allowed four goals on 26 shots in two periods before finding the bench and Peter Budaj ended with 14 saves in relief. Tuukka Rask yielded five goals on 28 shots for the Bruins.
Both the Canadiens and Bruins are coming off victories on Thursday that kept the race for first place at one point. Boston blanked the New Jersey Devils 1-0, while Montreal notched a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
Jaromir Jagr had the lone goal for the Bruins in his debut with the club after being acquired from the Dallas Stars on Tuesday for forwards Lane MacDermid and Cody Payne along with a conditional second-round pick. He registered 14 goals and 12 assists in 34 games with Dallas, but picked up his first goal with the Bruins after Brad Marchand's centering feed hit off the crashing forwards skate and in.
"Sometimes you have to be lucky to score," Jagr said. "I think that's the first time I scored with my leg. When I was 25, I wouldn't have liked that goal, but at 41 I'll take anything right now."
Rask posted 40 saves to notch his third shutout of the season, while Jagr skated on a line with winger Marchand and the 21-year-old Seguin at center. He shifted to the pivot spot with Patrice Bergeron out with a concussion.
Montreal did not make a big move prior to Wednesday's trade deadline, but did get two goals an assist from in-season pickup Michael Ryder in the win over the Jets.
Ryder was acquired from the Stars on Feb. 26 and has potted nine goals and 17 points in 17 games since the trade.
Brian Gionta scored a goal and an assist, Alex Galchenyuk lit the lamp and Budaj ended with 33 saves for the Habs, who have won four of their last five and bounced back from a 5-3 loss in Philadelphia the previous night.
"It was a rough game yesterday and we know we didn't play our best last night," said Ryder. "So we tried to bounce back and we did that. It shows the character of this team."
While Montreal is holding onto the top spot in the division after winning the opener of a three-game series, it is also five points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first seed in the East.