The amount of games to make the playoffs are dwindling for both the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens, and the Atlantic Division rivals have failed to generate any consistent momentum for a push ahead of Saturday night's critical game in Ontario's capital.
The Senators (33-30-8) were denied a third straight win after losing 3-1 at Buffalo on Friday. They conceded a pair of goals around Alex Chiasson's tally in the first 8:17 of the contest and failed to help themselves by playing short-handed for more than half of the final 7:03.
"We need more pride; need to battle a little hard," Chiasson told the team's official website. "We're fighting for our life, our playoff hope. Not the effort that's demanded of us. We should expect more from ourselves."
Ottawa's power play again sputtered, going 0 for 4 to extend its man-advantage drought to 21 chances over the last eight games. The Senators had killed all 11 penalties over the previous four games before yielding a power-play goal 2:07 into Friday night's defeat.
''Not good enough,'' said goaltender Craig Anderson, echoing Chiasson's sentiments. ''Bottom line is we didn't get two points and that's what we needed.''
The Senators are seven points behind Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with 10 games remaining.
While Ottawa was unable to extend its winning streak, Montreal (33-32-6) avoided a third straight loss by defeating Buffalo 3-2 in overtime Wednesday. Paul Byron's winning goal deflected off the stick of a Sabres defenseman to make sure Ben Scrivens' season-high 41 saves didn't go for naught.
"We played with a lot of emotion last game, which is an encouraging sign," forward Lars Eller said after practice Friday. "It's nice to see everyone not backing off."
Coach Michel Therrien rewarded Scrivens with another start, which will be his first against Ottawa since a 4-3 overtime loss Nov. 13, 2014, playing for Edmonton. Scrivens is 2-2-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average in five lifetime starts versus the Senators.
Montreal's postseason situation is as dire as Ottawa's, entering this game nine points behind Detroit. The Canadiens will be without P.K. Subban - second on the team with 51 points - for both their games this weekend as Therrien ruled his top defenseman out as he continues to recover from a neck injury suffered March 10.
The Habs' defense corps took another hit Friday when Mark Barberio was ruled out due to concussion-like symptoms.
Montreal has taken five of six possible points this season between the teams after a 3-1 victory in the most recent meeting Dec. 12. The Canadiens tied a franchise record with 27 first-period shots before chasing Anderson in the second.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau has scored three of Ottawa's four goals in the season series, one in each game, and the Senators are 0 for 7 on the power play versus the Habs.