(SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Canadiens hope to aid their push for home ice in the first round of the playoffs when they host the New York Islanders in Thursday's game at the Bell Centre.
Montreal will face Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs and currently holds a three-point lead over the Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series. However, Tampa Bay has three games left in the regular season compared to two for the Canadiens.
The Habs are closing their regular-season slate with two straight on home ice and will host the New York Rangers in their 82nd game on Saturday. Montreal is 22-12-5 as the home team this season.
The Canadiens lost for just the second time in nine outings on Wednesday, but they still picked up a point in a 3-2 overtime loss at Chicago. Peter Budaj misplayed a harmless Patrick Sharp shot into the game winner at 43 seconds of OT, giving the Blackhawks a come-from-behind victory at United Center.
Marian Hossa tied the game inside the final minute with the extra attacker, then Sharp won it when his contested, rolling shot from between the circles trickled up Budaj's stick. Instead of trapping it, the Habs' netminder tried to shake it away, and instead whacked it into the net for Chicago's winning goal.
"We were in a position to get two points, but I really liked the way we played," Montreal head coach Michel Therrien said. "On the last two goals, it was some bad coverage in front of the net. I'm sure on the last goal, the winning goal, (Budaj) certainly would like to see that shot again, but those things happen."
Dale Weise and Francis Bouillon scored for the Canadiens, while Budaj took the loss despite 25 stops.
The Islanders are out of the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons after making an appearance last spring. The club has lost three straight and has been outscored by a combined 8-1 margin over the last two games.
After losing 4-0 in Columbus on Sunday, New York was dealt a 4-1 setback by the visiting Ottawa Senators in Tuesday's season finale at Nassau Coliseum. Jason Spezza scored twice, including the go-ahead goal in the third period to lift the Senators to the win and drop New York's record this season on Long Island to 13-19-9.
"We had some problems here at home," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano. "That's something we have to straighten out if we want to make the playoffs."
Next season marks New York's last campaign at the Coliseum, as the club is scheduled to move to Brooklyn's Barclays Center at the start of 2015-16.
Frans Nielsen scored for the Islanders, while Anders Nilsson made 28 saves in a losing effort.
New York will play three games on the road to complete its schedule and is 18-18-2 as the visiting team. After tonight's tilt at the Bell Centre, the Isles will visit New Jersey on Friday before ending the campaign Sunday in Buffalo.
Montreal has won three straight against the Islanders overall, but New York has claimed three of the past five meetings in Quebec.