Sliding Habs take on Lightning

The Montreal Canadiens will try to avoid their longest losing streak of the season when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Thursday's battle at the Bell Centre.

Montreal has lost its last three games in regulation and as a result has fallen into a tie with Boston for the top spot in the Northeast Division. The Bruins, who are idle on Thursday after a shootout loss to Buffalo on Wednesday, have a game in hand over the Canadiens.

The Canadiens have allowed 18 goals during their three-game slide, the longest for the club since an 0-2-1 stretch from Feb. 6-9.

Montreal's latest setback came in Wednesday's 6-4 road loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brenden Morrow registered two goals and an assist as the Penguins jumped out to a 4-0 lead and then held on for the win.

Brian Gionta, Alex Galchenyuk, Gabriel Dumont and Andrei Markov each tallied once for the Canadiens.

Peter Budaj allowed three goals on nine shots in the first before being removed in favor of Carey Price, who gave up three goals on 20 shots over the final two frames.

"You can't expect to win giving up four goals, five goals," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "It's a matter of going back to basics."

Montreal hopes to get back on track tonight against a Tampa Bay team it has had a great deal of success against lately. The Canadiens have won three straight and six of eight in this series overall and the Lightning have lost three in a row and five of their last seven in Montreal.

Canadiens forward Ryan White sat out Wednesday's tilt, as he served the first part of a five-game suspension for a hit to the head of Philadelphia's Kent Huskins on Monday. Fellow forward Michael Ryder also sat out Wednesday's game with an upper body injury and is questionable for tonight.

Tampa Bay is close to being mathematically eliminated from the Eastern Conference playoff race, meaning the club will likely miss the postseason for the fifth time in six years. The Lightning are eight points out of the East's final playoff spot with five games left.

The Lightning have lost their last four games and they're coming off Tuesday's shootout loss in Winnipeg. Andrew Ladd put up two goals and an assist in regulation, then potted the game-sealing score in the shootout to give the Jets the 4-3 decision at MTS Centre.

Tampa Bay earned a point on third-period goals from Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Steven Stamkos that erased a 3-1 deficit, with Ben Bishop registering 33 saves on the evening.

"Obviously you're never satisfied when you don't win," Stamkos said. "There's always areas to improve but I'm definitely satisfied with the effort in the second part of the game."

Stamkos has 27 goals this season, leaving him one shy of Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead.

Thursday's contest is the final test of a four-game road trip for the Bolts, who are just 6-14-2 as the visiting team this season.