Habs, Bruins battle for first place in Boston

The Montreal Canadiens remain pleased with their effort over the last two games despite back-to-back losses in regulation.

Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien, meanwhile, is worried about his club's fatigue despite rallying for a victory last time out.

The long-time rivals meet for the third time this season on Wednesday night, with first place in the Northeast Division at stake in Boston.

The Bruins and Canadiens both have 45 points on the season, with Boston holding the tiebreaker due to a game in hand. The Bruins also have one more victory than the Habs, which they picked up Monday versus the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.

Montreal had a chance to come into this meeting ahead of Boston in the standings, but dropped a 1-0 decision at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night. It marked the first time this season that the Canadiens have lost consecutive games in regulation.

The Habs and Bruins have split their two earlier meetings this season as Boston extended its series winning streak to five straight with a 2-1 victory in Montreal on Feb. 6 before the Canadiens countered with a 4-3 triumph in Boston on March 3.

The pair of one-goal decisions didn't come as much as a surprise as seven of the past eight encounters have all been decided by that margin. The Canadiens will host the Bruins on April 6 to conclude the regular-season series.

Both of Montreal's recent setbacks have also been decided by the lowest possible difference as it followed up a 2-1 home loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday with last night's defeat to Pittsburgh. The Canadiens had been 14-1-4 in their previous 19 prior to the consecutive setbacks.

"We've got to take the positives out of it," said Canadiens goaltender Carey Price following the loss to the Pens. "If we keep playing the way we are, we're not going to lose that many games like that. We've just got to stick to it."

Price made 24 saves on Tuesday night, yielding the lone goal of the game to Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby with 6:41 left in the second period. The Pittsburgh center took a stretch pass and beat Price on the top left.

"I thought we played pretty well, that's the disappointing part," said Price. "Obviously he's the best player in the world and about five millimeters was the difference in the game tonight."

Montreal will now try to avoid matching its longest losing streak of the season, an 0-2-1 span from Feb. 6-9 that began with the home loss to Boston.

The Bruins welcome the Habs to town after splitting a home-and-home series with the Maple Leafs. They dropped the road portion of the set on Saturday 3-2, failing to rally after giving up the game's first three goals.

Boston then fell behind 2-0 at home to Toronto on Monday, but got a second- period tally from Milan Lucic before Patrice Bergeron tied the game with 9:24 to play in the third.

Tyler Seguin and Bergeron then scored shootout goals, while Tuukka Rask stopped 2-of-3 in the tiebreaker after posting 23 saves through overtime.

"To me, it was a gutsy effort," Julien said. "Not a pretty effort, but a gutsy one. Until they scored their second goal, we really weren't that good. I don't think the will and desire is not there more than I think we're a little heavy right now in our play. We've lost some speed and everything else that comes with it. So it's a gutsy effort anyway from our part that after they scored their second goal, we got ourselves going."

After opting not to hold a pregame skate on Monday morning, Julien also decided to give his players off on Tuesday as well.

Julien hopes that will have his players energized tonight as they try to pick up a sixth straight victory at home, a streak that began following the loss to the Habs on March 3.