It may be too late for the St. Louis Blues, but they are playing like a team that is making a run at the postseason. The Montreal Canadiens, meanwhile, appear doomed for an early April exit.
The Canadiens look to end a dismal slide when they visit the surging Blues Saturday in the first meeting between the teams since before the lockout.
Montreal (33-30-6) has dropped four in a row, including a 6-2 defeat to Atlanta on Thursday, and is 4-11-0 in the last 15 games. The Canadiens are 11th in the Eastern Conference, but are in a pack of teams battling for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The Blues are 7-2-1 in their last 10 contests and coming off an impressive 5-3 win over Dallas on Thursday. They hold the 10th spot in the West, but would need to overcome a double-digit point deficit to make the postseason.
Doug Weight had two goals and Brad Boyes, Lee Stempniak and Eric Brewer each had a goal and an assist Thursday for St. Louis. The Blues scored five or more goals for the eighth time this season and bounced back after blowing a two-goal lead in a 4-2 loss to Calgary Tuesday.
"After blowing that 2-0 lead, coach (Andy Murray) challenged us," Stempniak said. "I thought we played really well tonight. We had timely goals."
Murray agreed and may consider confronting his team again.
"I got to do it more often," he said. "We were very deserving of the victory tonight."
That victory improved the Blues to 13-6-0 in their last 19 home games after starting the season 4-10-3 there. They are 4-1-0 with a tie against Montreal in the last six meetings in St. Louis.
These teams, though, haven't played there since the Blues' 3-0 win on Dec. 28, 2001, and Montreal beat St. Louis 5-2 on Jan. 13, 2004, in the last matchup between the clubs. The Canadiens, finishing a five-game road trip, have lost a season-high five in a row away from home.
Montreal gave up six straight goals Thursday before Guillaume Latendresse scored midway through the second period and Radek Bonk added one in the final period.
"That game was embarrassing. Nothing else to say," said Montreal's Mike Johnson, who assisted on both goals. "There is not a positive to put on it. Nothing to take out of it."
The Canadiens have been outscored 21-8 during their four-game skid and are giving up 4.0 goals over the last 15 contests. The loss of starting goaltender Cristobal Huet nearly a month ago to a left hamstring injury has certainly contributed to those struggles.
Huet is out for the remainder of the regular season, leaving the duties to backup David Aebischer and Jaroslav Halak, who was recalled from Hamilton of the AHL on Feb. 14. Halak won his first three starts, but has dropped his last four, including allowing five goals on 15 shots Thursday before getting pulled.
Aebischer hasn't fared much better, going 1-4-0 with a 4.04 goals-against average in his last seven appearances. The Blues have also had to deal with an injury to their top netminder as Manny Legace has been sidelined since Feb. 24 with a knee injury.
Curtis Sanford, 3-2-1 with a 2.81 GAA in his absence, has never faced the Canadiens.