The last time the Montreal Canadiens faced the San Jose Sharks, they were hoping a recent slide was just a hiccup in their promising start to the season.
This time, they are hopeful a desperate run might save it.
While the visiting Canadiens are holding onto their postseason hopes by a thread in the Eastern Conference, the Sharks look to lengthen the rope between them and the rest of the bubble teams in the West by continuing their defensive dominance in this series on Monday night.
After a 19-4-3 start to the season, Montreal (30-27-5) has drifted to 13th place in the East and trails eighth-place Pittsburgh by five points. The Canadiens have only held onto their slim playoff hopes thanks to three victories on a four-game point streak.
Their last streak of at least that length ended on the first day of December and was followed by regulation losses in 10 of 11 games, the fifth defeat coming on Dec. 15 against San Jose (33-22-6).
While opening the Canadiens' season-high six-game skid, the Sharks' 3-1 win in Montreal also extended a strong defensive streak in this series. San Jose has surrendered only three goals in the last five games as part of a 5-1 record against the Canadiens since December 2011.
Martin Jones made 26 saves in the latest win, and he had 23 while helping the Sharks snap a two-game skid with Sunday's 4-1 victory at Vancouver.
It took San Jose more than 44 minutes to wake up offensively, but Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Patrick Marleau and Justin Braun each scored in the third period to help the Sharks move 12 points ahead of the Canucks for the Pacific Division's third guaranteed playoff spot.
''We knew the importance of the game and I thought we were OK for the most part,'' said Jones, who became the fifth goalie in Sharks history with 30 wins in a season. ''We just didn't have a lot of jump and we kind of gave away a lot of pucks when we had full control, but in the third, we really stepped it up.''
Jones has a .934 save percentage over his last nine starts. Goaltending has been a topic of discussion over the weekend for the Sharks as they acquired James Reimer from Toronto on Saturday in exchange for struggling backup Alex Stalock.
It is still unclear when Reimer will join the team, so Jones could make his ninth straight start on Monday or it could go to Aaron Dell, who was called up from the AHL to fill the void until Reimer is ready.
Jones' two career starts against the Canadiens prior to this season while with Los Angeles were polar opposites. One of his 12 career shutouts came from a 6-0 win in Montreal on Dec. 10, 2013, but he allowed six goals in a 6-2 loss there on Dec. 12, 2014.
While San Jose strengthens its grip on a playoff spot, Montreal hasn't quite let go yet. The Canadiens snapped a five-game road losing streak with Wednesday's 4-3 victory at league-leading Washington and followed with Saturday's 4-1 home win over Toronto.
Max Pacioretty scored twice in the third period against the Maple Leafs, while Mike Condon made 31 saves.
''We've always had hope in this room,'' Pacioretty said. ''I won't look at the standings. I'm taking things one day at a time, one game at a time, and hoping for good results.''