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Playoff-bound Habs visit desperate Sens
(SportsNetwork.com) - As the Montreal Canadiens fight for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, the Ottawa Senators continue to battle for their postseason lives.
The clubs square off for the fifth and final time this regular season on Friday night in Ottawa.
Despite having a five-game winning streak halted with Tuesday's 3-1 setback to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canadiens still secured their second straight postseason berth thanks to losses by the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals.
Montreal, though, did fall into a tie for second place in the Atlantic Division with the Lightning, their likely first-round opponent, and Tampa Bay was unable to snap the deadlock thanks to a regulation setback to the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
Both teams have five games remaining in the regular season, but none against each other.
The Senators, meanwhile, got back into the playoff discussion with a 4-0-1 streak, but saw that run end with Wednesday's 2-1 setback to the New York Islanders.
That has Ottawa seven points back of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, with six games to play.
The Senators gave up the go-ahead goal while shorthanded in Wednesday's loss, while Milan Michalek managed Ottawa's lone goal. Craig Anderson turned aside 25 shots as Ottawa's three-game winning streak came to an end.
"They scored on two power plays tonight. We have to be better on the penalty kill and do better with the chances they give to us," said Michalek, who has four goals over his last four games.
Ottawa captain Jason Spezza and defenseman Jared Cowen both missed their second consecutive games due to lower-body injuries.
The Senators conclude a five-game homestand tonight and begin a quick two-game road trip against New York teams with Saturday's contest versus the Rangers.
Anderson is 6-6-2 with a 2.99 goals against average in his career against the Canadiens and is expected to play tonight.
Montreal also will play on back-to-back nights as it hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. The Canadiens are coming off just their second loss in 10 games after being bested by the Lightning.
Brendan Gallagher had the only goal of the game for the Canadiens, while Carey Price allowed two goals on 32 shots.
"We missed a chance to create some space in the standings," said Price. "I think we matched up pretty well with those guys and we tend to bring out the best in each other. That's a good team over there."
Montreal lost defenseman Douglas Murray to a match penalty after he caught Tampa Bay blueliner Michael Kostka in the head with an elbow late in the third period. Murray had a disciplinary hearing on Thursday and was issued a three- game suspension. He will be eligible to return to action on April 10.
Montreal concludes a four-game road trip and is expected to give backup Peter Budaj the start tonight. He lost his only previous encounter with the Sens, giving up five goals on 27 shots.
The last three meetings between these clubs have all been decided in overtime, the most recent two won by the Canadiens. Montreal snapped a four-game slide in Ottawa with a 5-4 overtime victory on Jan. 16, with P.K. Subban scoring 23 seconds into the extra frame and Price making 40 saves.
Defenseman Erik Karlsson registered a goal and two assists for the Senators, while Anderson made just 18 saves.
04/04 10:56:33 ET