The Boston Bruins play their third game in four nights on Saturday. The way they're playing right now, they might wish they didn't even have the one night off.
The surprising Bruins seek their sixth consecutive victory, and third in a row over an Original Six opponent, when they visit the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.
Following a 2-1 shootout win at Chicago on Wednesday night, Boston (10-3-3) briefly returned home Thursday and routed Montreal 6-1. Stephane Yelle and Marco Sturm each scored twice for the Bruins, who have won five straight for the first time since a six-game run Feb. 19-March 1. Their fourth line, on which Yelle is flanked by Chuck Kobasew and Shawn Thornton, combined for seven points.
"When you have all your lines going it is definitely an advantage," Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara said. "Being able to use your whole lineup is crucial especially during a heavy schedule."
Sturm, who also scored Boston's lone goal in regulation Wednesday, has five goals and two assists during the winning streak as the Bruins have moved within three points of New York (12-5-2) for the conference lead.
"Probably one of the better games I've seen since I've been with this organization," Sturm said after Thursday's win. "It's great to see we are heading in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go."
As impressive as the offense was against the Canadiens, strong defense and goaltending are carrying the Bruins. The tandem of Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez has given up only six goals during the winning streak and nine in the last eight games. Boston's penalty-killing unit is 20-for-21 during the win streak.
Boston took three of four games from New York in last season's series although the Rangers won the most recent meeting, 1-0 in a shootout March 9 at Madison Square Garden as Nigel Dawes scored the only goal. Four of the last five meetings between the Bruins and Rangers have gone to a shootout.
Dawes had two assists Wednesday night as the Rangers beat New Jersey 5-2. Michal Rozsival, Nikolai Zherdev, Chris Drury and Lauri Korpikoski all scored in the second period as New York overcame an early 1-0 deficit.
The Rangers have already won four games in which they trailed after the first period.
"I don't know what it is. We've been slow starters this year," said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 30 saves. "We did a lot of good things in the first period ... but then we really stepped up in the second."
Lundqvist has allowed two goals in each of his last eight starts, going 5-2-1. The Rangers, though, had dropped four of five before beating the Devils.
It's uncertain Saturday whether the Rangers will have center Scott Gomez, who is tied for third on the team with 13 points but missed Wednesday's game due to a leg injury. An MRI exam revealed no broken bones.
"It's just pain," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "It's precautionary as much as anything, but if it compromises the player or the team, you have to do the right thing.
"He's skating hard. He's working hard. As far as being able to play, I don't know, but he's certainly been playing hard."