Tampa Bay Lightning (46-23-7) at Montreal Canadiens (47-21-8), 7:30 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) – The Montreal Canadiens clinched a playoff berth over the weekend, but they still have something to prove against the rival Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Canadiens hope to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Lightning and also extend their lead atop the Atlantic Division when the clubs meet for a final regular-season battle Monday at the Bell Centre.
Montreal swept the Bolts out of the playoffs last spring, taking the first- round series in four games. However, Tampa has claimed five straight in the regular season, including the first four matchups in 2014-15.
The Habs and Lightning each have six games left on their schedule and Montreal is holding a three-point edge for first place.
Montreal has 102 points on the season and punched its ticket to the playoffs after beating the Florida Panthers in overtime on Saturday. Max Pacioretty scored at 2:59 of the extra session to lift the Canadiens into the playoffs with the 3-2 victory.
The Habs snapped a two-game slide by winning the first test of a three-game homestand and improved to 4-1-1 over their last six trips to the ice.
“At the end of the day, we need to get momentum going into the playoffs,” Pacioretty said. “It’s a good step in the right direction, but we know we have work to do.”
Vincent Trocheck was called for high sticking at 2:52 and the Canadiens won the ensuing faceoff. Working the puck down to the low right side, David Desharnais received it there and quickly whipped it to the front where Pacioretty pushed it in for the win.
Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller also scored, while Carey Price stopped 21 shots for the Canadiens, who have won three straight at home and are 25-8-5 at the Bell Centre this season.
Montreal clinched a postseason berth for a third straight season and is seeking its second division title in three years.
Tampa Bay has lost two straight in regulation on the heels of a four-game winning streak, but the club is on the verge of claiming a playoff spot for the second straight spring. It only needs a point from tonight’s contest to punch a ticket to the postseason tournament.
After losing 3-2 to visiting Nashville on Thursday, the Bolts were shut out 4-0 Saturday in Detroit. Red Wings backup goaltender Petr Mrazek made 23 saves to keep Tampa off the scoreboard.
Ben Bishop allowed three goals on 22 shots for the Lightning, who were shut out for the first time since Dec. 14, 2013.
“The last couple games, we’re inventing new ways of watching pucks go in,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “It’s a little frustrating.”
Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison and forward Cedric Paquette left the game with injuries. Garrison is out 3-to-4 weeks with an upper-body injury, while Paquette will be a game-time decision for Monday.
Forward Tyler Johnson and Andrej Sustr also sustained injuries in the loss to Detroit. Sustr is expected to miss 1-to-2 weeks and Johnson is day-to-day.
Tampa recalled forward Jonathan Marchessault and defenseman Luke Witkowski from Syracuse of the AHL on Monday morning.
Tampa has struggled on the road this season and is playing the second test of a five-game trip tonight. The Lightning are 16-15-6 as the guest compared to a superb 30-8-1 mark at home, but the Bolts own a 2-0 record at the Bell Centre this season. They have won four in a row in Montreal, not including last season’s playoff battle.
Bishop is expected to start tonight for the Lightning, who also play tomorrow in Toronto. He is 9-1-2 with a 1.42 goals against average in his career versus Montreal.
Price is 10-5-5 with a 2.46 GAA in 25 regular-season matchups versus Tampa.