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Bruins-Canadiens Preview

Boston Bruins players surround goalie Tuukka Rask (40) as they celebrate their 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of an NHL hockey second-round Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Saturday, May 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Photo:

Boston Bruins players surround goalie Tuukka Rask (40) as they celebrate their 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of an NHL hockey second-round Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Saturday, May 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

A team that began the season with a franchise-best start has now been the worst team in hockey for more than a month and a half.

Montreal's latest winless streak can reach five games Tuesday night at home against the Boston Bruins, but it's been the Canadiens dominating the series for nearly three years.

Since the start of December, the Canadiens (23-19-4) are 5-15-1 and their 11 points are six fewer than the next-worst team, making their 9-0-0 start seem eons ago. They haven't won or even recorded a point in consecutive games in that time. A season that was once going to be about maintaining a massive lead in the Eastern Conference has now turned into fighting for a playoff spot.

Montreal's third skid of at least four games in that time is at 0-3-1 after Sunday's 5-2 loss in Chicago.

"We're all pros. We understand that when things aren't going right, people are going to ask questions," Brendan Gallagher told the team's official website. "But it's important for us to stick together as a team. That's what we're talking about. We're going to get out of this. It's taking longer than we would have liked, but we're going to get out of this. The only way we're going to do that is by sticking together as a group.

"Tonight, we weren't good enough. Next game, we have to be better."

Max Pacioretty scored for a second straight game and has five goals in his last eight games following a 12-game span with one. The team, however, has scored seven goals on the most recent skid, which is no improvement over the 1.86 it's averaged since the start of December.

The Canadiens have won 13 of the last 15 regular-season meetings, including three of four this season. Pacioretty has six goals and five assists in his last eight games against the Bruins, while Gallagher has three goals and eight assists in seven games since the start of last season.

Boston (23-16-5) is the only team to allow Montreal more than three goals in its last 23 games, which was a 5-1 final at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1 for the Winter Classic.

More recently, the Bruins have started to overcome some struggles of their own with consecutive wins. Saturday's 3-2 home win over Toronto came with Brad Marchand scoring in the final minute of the third period. The forward hadn't scored in his previous 11 games, and Boston improved to 10-1-2 in games he scores. He had one called back earlier in the period, and he now needs to break an 11-game drought against the Canadiens.

"It felt pretty good - I'm not going to lie," Marchand told the team's official website. "It's been a little while, and it was frustrating to have that one called back, especially when we thought we were going to have the lead with 10 minutes left. I thought we played really well after that, and it was great that we were able to get the win."

That came in part because of a 5-for-5 penalty kill, and Boston has allowed just two power-play goals in 50 chances over the last 18 games.

Tuukka Rask ended a personal 0-4-1 skid, but he's won just four of 22 career regular-season starts against Montreal.

Counterpart Mike Condon hasn't won in his last three starts but is 2-1-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average against the Bruins.

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