Sweeps aren't all that common when the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens get together for a home-and-home series. A sweep needs to be the objective for the Bruins.
Both teams will be looking to move up the Eastern Conference standings when they meet Tuesday night in Montreal.
In only 23 of 79 home-and-home series between these Original Six rivals has one team emerged with a sweep. Montreal (36-31-6) has accomplished it 17 times to six for Boston (34-32-5).
No team has swept a home-and-home set in this series since the Canadiens did it on Dec. 17 and 19, 1981. These clubs meet again Thursday in Boston.
Every game is important for both teams at this time of the season, but a poor showing over the next three days could all but eliminate Boston from the playoff race.
Montreal is tied with Toronto and the New York Islanders for ninth in the East, two points behind eighth-place Carolina. Boston, meanwhile, is five points back of the Canadiens.
The Bruins have won the opening game in each of their last six home-and-home series against the Canadiens, but Montreal has posted a 4-0 record with two ties in the back end.
"It might be a clich????, but really you have to take it one game at a time," Montreal's Mike Johnson said on the team's official Web site. "These home-and-home series are a part of the game but sometimes it's tough to get the sweep because the teams make adjustments between the two games."
Any momentum Boston built with consecutive wins over Detroit and Washington ended Saturday with a dismal performance in a 7-0 loss to the Rangers.
"I'm embarrassed for anybody that's ever gone to a Bruins game, that has a Bruins jersey at home because this is not what the Bruins stand for," coach Dave Lewis said. "Totally embarrassing. The Boston Bruins mean much more than that performance."
Tim Thomas was pulled in the second period and returned in the third, finishing with 22 saves on 25 shots.
"It makes our job more difficult from here on out - every loss does, Thomas said. "But now we've got another huge game coming up Tuesday in Montreal."
Thomas has won three straight starts against the Canadiens after losing his previous six.
A recent four-game losing streak appeared to signal the end of Montreal's playoff chances, but three wins in four games have moved the Canadiens back into the chase.
Saku Koivu and Andrei Kostitsyn scored in the shootout Saturday, lifting Montreal to a 3-2 victory over visiting Toronto.
Rookie goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who served as backup the past three games, stopped 37 shots in regulation and overtime before denying three of four attempts in the shootout.
"If we had lost this game it would have been real tough to get back in the race," Koivu said. "Now, we're tied. That extra point was big for us. The situation for both teams from here on until the end is every game is a playoff game and a must-win. We'll battle for the next two weeks and see where that takes us."
The Bruins have won two straight meetings against the Canadiens and three of five overall this season, but have lost five of their last six visits to Montreal.