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Canadiens 4, Bruins 3 @NHLdotcom

BOSTON (AP) - As the surging Montreal Canadiens moved a step closer to making the playoffs, Jan Bulis couldn't help but keep an eye on the scoreboard.

Alex Kovalev had two goals and an assist to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Thursday night.

Currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, Montreal leads ninth-place Atlanta by six points with two games remaining. The Canadiens need just one point or an Atlanta loss or tie to clinch a playoff spot. Atlanta, which has three games remaining, beat Washington 5-3 Thursday to remain in the playoff picture.

"This was a big game and big two points for us," Bulis said. "Of course we were looking at Atlanta. We saw the score on the board there at the top. It was a crazy game."

Bulis added a goal and two assists for the Canadiens, who are trying to make the playoffs for the second straight season. Montreal hasn't had back-to-back playoff appearances since three straight berths, ending with the 1997-98 season.

Boston finished its home schedule 16-15-10, its worst mark since winning 12 home games during the 1999-2000 season. The Bruins have clinched last place in the Northeast Division and won't make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

Patrice Bergeron scored twice and Yan Stastny added his first career goal for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and eight of nine.

"It's too bad we lost because the fans deserved a great showing," Bergeron said.

Richard Zednik scored a goal and Andrei Markov added two assists for the Canadiens, who have won 10 of 12 games to push back into the playoff race.

"We're playing about as good as we could, really," Montreal coach Bob Gainey said. "We've needed that kind of streak to give us a chance to be in the playoffs."

Bergeron's second goal pulled Boston to 4-3 with 3:49 remaining, but Montreal goaltender David Aebischer survived a late flurry to escape with the win.

"We gave them confidence," Kovalev said. "They have nothing to lose. They're out of the playoffs, so they gamble."

The Canadiens jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead and never trailed, taking the season series 7-1-0.

Kovalev fired a slap shot pass Bruins goalie Tim Thomas 20 seconds into the first period to give Montreal a quick 1-0 lead. Markov's slap shot then ricocheted off Bulis' stick and into the net 10:04 into the period, extending the Canadiens' lead to 2-0.

Brad Boyes assisted on Bergeron's goal 1:07 into the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1 1:07.

But a streaking Zednik took Mathieu Dandenault's pass and slapped it past Thomas 6:52 into the second to push the lead back to 3-1.

After Kovalev's second goal extended the lead to 4-1 early in the third period, Stastny scored 6:58 into the period. Bergeron made it 4-3, but Montreal held on.

"It is disappointing, but it's been a season of disappointments," Thomas said. "At least we showed heart and came back in the third."

Aebischer saved 25 shots, while Thomas had 22 saves.

Notes: The 20-year-old Bergeron became the youngest player in Bruins history to score 30 goals on a season. ... Boston right wing Tom Fitzgerald was out with a bruised hand. ... Following Montreal's second goal, Bruins wing Dan LaCouture and Canadiens defenseman Todd Simpson got into a skirmish and were both charged with major fighting penalities. .... The Canadiens final two games are at home. ... Montreal is 18-8-5 against Northeast Division opponents. ... Boston fell to 14-15-16 in one-goal games.

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