NHL

Streaking Canadiens visit rebuilding Maple Leafs

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The Sports Network
3/20/2010 12:11:30 PM
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(Sports Network) - A postseason spot that once appeared to be in jeopardy is looking more and more likely for the scorching Montreal Canadiens, who'll be setting their sights on a seventh straight victory in tonight's clash with the Toronto Maple Leafs from the Air Canada Centre.

The Canadiens returned from the Olympic break sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but now find themselves one point out of fifth after a sizzling 7-1-0 surge. Montreal continued its winning ways Tuesday at New York's Madison Square Garden, where the club scored twice in the third period to come away with a 3-1 verdict over the homestanding Rangers.

Sergei Kostitsyn's goal with 5:59 left to play snapped a 1-1 tie, and Tomas Plekanec sealed the triumph with an empty-netter in the final minute to give Montreal its longest win streak since an eight-game tear from March 23-April 6, 2006.

Goaltender Jaroslav Halak needed to make just 19 saves for the Habs, who finished the night with a 35-20 advantage in shots.

"We are playing with great confidence and we know we can win every night," said center Glen Metropolit, who tallied Montreal's first goal of the game. "We've got to keep it going -- we have some tough games coming up."

The Canadiens presently sit in seventh in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race, but trail both Philadelphia and Ottawa by just one point for the No. 5 seed. Following tonight's clash, Montreal will host the rival Senators on Monday.

But first, the Canadiens will have to deal with a Toronto squad that's last in the East with 62 points but hasn't played like a pushover as of late. The Maple Leafs have come out on top in five of their last six outings and ran their own winning streak to two games with a 2-1 shootout decision over playoff-hopeful New Jersey on Thursday.

After both teams scored to open the deciding phase, Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin buried a wrister past Devils goaltender Yann Danis before Jean Sebastien Giguere made a right-pad save on New Jersey's Patrick Elias. John Mitchell then clinched it for the Leafs by sneaking a backhander by Danis in the third round.

Giguere stopped 24-of-25 shots during regulation and overtime, with Phil Kessel accounting for Toronto's lone goal prior to the shootout.

"They're a very patient team," Giguere said of the Devils. "Every time you make a mistake they try and make you pay for it," Giguere said. "I thought [Thursday], for being a young team and them being an older team, I thought we were very patient."

The win was the fourth in a row at home for the youthful Maple Leafs, who close out a three-game residency Tuesday against Florida.

Montreal has had its share of recent success as the visitor in this series, however, having left with a victory in each of its three stops at the Air Canada Centre. The Canadiens have taken three of the four overall encounters between the Northeast Division foes this season and are 7-4-0 over their last 11 meetings with the Leafs.

Scott Gomez (Photo: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
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