Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs Preview
TORONTO, Ont. (AP) - The Montreal Canadiens head into their regular-season finale having already wrapped up a playoff berth, but their seeding is still uncertain.
The Canadiens hope to clinch the Eastern Conference's sixth seed when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Montreal (43-30-8) and Buffalo are tied for sixth in the East, although the Canadiens own the tiebreaker because they have more non-shootout victories. Montreal can secure the sixth seed with a win over the Maple Leafs, or a Sabres regulation loss to Columbus in their regular-season finale on Saturday.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Maple Leafs -115 money line favorites for Saturday's game against the Canadiens. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 55% of more than 301 bets for this game have been placed on the Maple Leafs -115.
The Canadiens clinched a berth Tuesday with a 2-1 overtime win over Chicago, but followed that with a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss to lowly Ottawa on Thursday. Montreal managed to get one point thanks to Michael Cammelleri's game-tying goal with 10.1 seconds left in regulation, his 19th score of the season and third in four games.
"We need to be a little sharper and a little more assertive in our game," Cammalleri told the Canadiens' official website. "To tie it up at the end was nice, but it was maybe a bit of a mental letdown after last game."
It was another tough offensive performance for Montreal, which has tallied two goals or fewer in six of its last eight contests, going 3-4-1 in that stretch. Brian Gionta notched his team-leading 27th goal Thursday, but it was his first since March 18.
"We made too many turnovers and we just fed their transition game. We have to tighten things up Saturday night," Gionta said. "We were too lax and too irresponsible with the puck in the neutral zone. We just weren't desperate enough."
The Maple Leafs would love to close the season by beating their rivals in front of their home fans.
Toronto (37-33-11), which was eliminated from playoff contention for the sixth straight season Tuesday, is 3-2-0 against the Canadiens this season, including two wins at home.
In the last meeting on Feb. 24, the Maple Leafs won 5-4 in Montreal, chasing Canadiens backup Alex Auld by scoring three times in the first 13:02. All-Star Carey Price came on to stop 17 of 19 shots.
Price, who got the night off Thursday, is 2-2-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and two shutouts against the Maple Leafs this season.
Toronto's Phil Kessel had two power-play goals and two assists versus the Canadiens in the last meeting, and has four goals in the season series.
Kessel scored his team-leading 31st goal in Wednesday's 4-2 loss to New Jersey, the second straight defeat for Toronto, which had won six of its previous seven.
The Maple Leafs got off to a sluggish start, falling behind 3-0 after two periods before mounting a late rally. Kessel scored at 6:18 of the third and Toronto pulled within one goal on Tyler Bozak's rare 3-on-5 tally with 7:18 remaining.
"It shows we still have fight in us, and although we are kicked out (of the playoffs) we still want to win," goalie James Reimer said.
Reimer was pulled after two periods Wednesday for Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who turned aside all 11 shots he faced.
Reimer, who has made nine consecutive starts, stopped 31 of 35 shots in his lone start against the Canadiens on Feb. 24.
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