Habs, Jackets battle in Columbus

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(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of clubs hoping to avoid three-game losing streaks meet tonight in the Buckeye State, as the Columbus Blue Jackets welcome the Montreal Canadiens for a clash at Nationwide Arena.

The Canadiens enter Wednesday following losses to Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, marking Montreal's first set of consecutive setbacks since an 0-3-0 stretch from Dec. 3-6.

Columbus, meanwhile, suffered a pair of 5-2 losses this past weekend, putting the club on its first losing streak since late November.

The Blue Jackets fell 5-2 in Toronto on Friday and lost by the same score the following night in a home tilt against the New York Islanders. Columbus last lost two in a row during an 0-5-1 drought from Nov. 18-29 and is still 12-4-1 since the beginning of December.

Although a two-game skid is usually nothing to be worried about, the Blue Jackets can't afford a prolonged slide if they want to return to the playoffs for a second straight spring and for the third time in club history.

Columbus began this season with a 6-15-2 before catching fire in December. However, the Blue Jackets are still 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and a long losing streak at any point from now until the end of the regular season could easily derail their postseason hopes.

The Jackets were tied with New York 1-1 after 20 minutes, but the Islanders grabbed control of Saturday's tilt with three unanswered goals in the second period.

The 5-2 result could have been even worse for the Blue Jackets, who killed off all six New York power plays and were outshot 40-18 in the loss.

"We didn't execute well," Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards said. "We spent too much time in our own zone."

Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 saves for Columbus. He also absorbed the loss in Friday's defeat against the Maple Leafs.

Jack Johnson and Nick Foligno each registered goals for the Blue Jackets, who fell to 9-10-2 as the host.

Columbus is playing the middle part of a three-game homestand tonight and will complete the stay at Nationwide this Friday against the New York Rangers.

The Canadiens are hoping to rebound from a pair of recent home losses that came on the heels of a six-game winning streak. Unlike Columbus, however, the Habs are still in great shape playoff-wise as they currently sit second in the Atlantic Division.

Montreal's most recent setback was Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pens captain Sidney Crosby capped two shifts of pressure with the game-winner on a power play with 1:19 remaining in OT to lift the visitors to the win at Bell Centre.

Crosby had two separate chances to win it earlier as the clock ticked down to two minutes remaining in the extra session. Habs goaltender Carey Price flashed his right pad on the first chance and seconds later, Crosby actually beat Price through the pads from in close, but Montreal's Alexei Emelin came to the rescue and swept the puck out of danger.

The hosts were hit with a bench minor penalty with 1:51 left in OT, and Evgeni Malkin slipped a pass into the right circle for Crosby's successful one-timer which ended the contest.

Max Pacioretty provided the sole offense for the Canadiens, who still have recorded a point in seven of their last eight games (6-1-1). Price took the loss despite making 35 stops.

"It's tough, but they have so much skill over there. You can't give them too many chances. We battled for 63 minutes but we have to find a way to close out games," said Pacioretty.

P.A. Parenteau missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury but he is expected to be back tonight for the Habs. He has six goals and nine assists in 38 games this season.

Columbus is 3-1-1 over the last five overall meetings with the Canadiens, but Montreal owns a 3-1-1 mark in five all-time encounters at the Bell Centre.