Habs aim to grab 1st place from Bruins

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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Canadiens will try to extend their point streak to nine straight games and grab possession of first place in the Atlantic Division on Thursday night when they host the rival Boston Bruins.

The Habs have ripped off three straight wins while going 7-0-1 in their last eight, having not lost in regulation since Nov. 16. That has them a point back of the Bruins for the top spot in the division as Boston is having its own string of success with a 6-1-1 mark in its past eight.

Montreal will take on its rival for the first time this season after winning the final three of four meetings a season ago. The Canadiens' 2-1 home victory on April 6 snapped a three-game series home losing streak and was the Bruins' seventh loss in its past 11 trips to Montreal.

The Habs also take on the Bruins in the back end of games on consecutive nights. They won a 4-3 shootout decision on Wednesday over the New Jersey Devils, with David Desharnais tying the game with 36.6 seconds left in regulation before tallying the shootout winner.

Former Devil Brian Gionta notched a goal and an assist, while Lars Eller also lit the lamp for the Canadiens. Backup Peter Budaj backstopped the triumph with 31 saves and Tomas Plekanec logged the 250th assist of his career.

"You have to find ways to win and tonight we were able to do that," Gionta said. "Obviously it wasn't our prettiest win, but these are the points that are huge when you can steal a couple points."

Carey Price will start tonight for the Canadiens, who have not allowed more than three goals in 12 straight games. Price is 16-8-3 with a 2.55 goals against average in his career versus the Bruins.

Boston may have the advantage tonight thanks to rest. The Bruins have been out of action since a 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, their fourth win in five games.

Milan Lucic scored twice and Patrice Bergeron also lit the lamp. David Krejci had two assists and Chad Johnson needed to make only 13 saves in the win.

"We talked about carrying it over from yesterday's emotional game. It was a full team effort from goalie out," Lucic said, referencing Friday's win over the Rangers.

Boston made the trip to Montreal without defenseman Adam McQuaid, who is battling a nagging lower-body injury. The ailment sidelined him for eight straight games before he played in the previous three.

Tuukka Rask is likely to start tonight for the Bruins after getting the last game off. He is 2-8-2 with a 2.83 GAA in his career versus the Canadiens.