It’s hard to imagine a more difficult back-to-back in the Eastern Conference than the one the Canadiens face Tuesday and Wednesday night ... not that any Bruins fans will feel bad for them.
Montreal (20-6-5) is at Pittsburgh (25-8-0) on Tuesday before returning to TD Garden on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network). Since Boston (21-7-3) and Montreal have the same amount of points and have played the same number of games entering Tuesday, Wednesday’s game will be for first place in the Northeast Division.
The last time the B’s had two days in a row without a game was Feb. 22 and 23, so Claude Julien’s team is happy to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel: their next game after Montreal is Saturday afternoon (1 p.m., NESN) in Philadelphia. Tired legs and an accumulation of injuries have certainly been factors in their poor play of late.
“It wasn’t a pretty effort but a gutsy one,” said Julien after Monday’s 3-2 shootout win over Toronto. “We’re heavy in our play, we lost some speed and everything else that comes with it. Nothing is as quick as it has been. We are tired, there is a fatigue factor.”
The teams have played twice already with each winning on the road, Boston won 2-1 at the Bell Centre on Feb. 6 while Montreal answered with a 4-3 win at the Garden on March 3. Wednesday’s game is fittingly Boston’s 32nd of the season, meaning that there is only one third left of the regular season. The Original Six rivals meet once more after that, April 6 in Montreal so these last two head-to-head matchups should go a long way towards determining who wins the Division and captures home ice for the playoffs.
Milan Lucic scored his first goal in over a month (Feb. 24) on Monday and he hopes to get his game in gear during this stretch run.
“We’re a big part of the team (talking about himself and Nathan Horton), we have to step our games up and get it where it needs to be,” Lucic said.
More production from him and Horton who has one goal in his last 14 games is vital for the Bruins. Julien had them skating on different lines for the first two periods on Monday before reuniting them in the third and overtime.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate