The Canadiens were given the day off Sunday after picking up their fifth straight victory with a 4-1 win over the Panthers Saturday night in Florida. The Habs have won eight of their last night games and according to the website sportsclubstats.com have a 100-per-cent chance of clinching a playoff spot. Five of those eight wins have come on the road.
While a playoff spot hasn’t officially been clinched, things are looking good for the Canadiens who appear headed for a first-round series with Tampa Bay. The Habs’ next game will be against the Lightning Tuesday night in Tampa (7:30 p.m., TSN-HABS, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
The Detroit Red Wings did the Canadiens a favour on Sunday night, beating the Lightning 3-2. The Canadiens (43-26-7) are in second place in the Atlantic Division and remain two points ahead of the third-place Lightning (41-25-9) with Tampa Bay holding one game in hand. The Boston Bruins (52-17-6), who are 17 points ahead of the Canadiens, have already clinched first place in the division.
The Canadiens No. 1 line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek accounted for all the scoring in Saturday’s win. Pacioretty scored his 34th and 35th goals of the season, while Vanek scored his 27th and Desharnais potted his 15th.
“I thought he was just a scorer, but he’s an unbelievable playmaker,” Pacioretty told reporters after the game about Vanek, who was acquired at the NHL trade deadline. “Not only does he make the right plays, but he makes it easier on the guys he’s setting up. When he gives the puck, he makes sure he drives the defender so he’s taking him away from you. He’s an easy player to play with.
“When you start making plays based on instinct, it shows the chemistry is building,” Pacioretty added. “We want to clean up some defensive plays we made late in the game, but you can’t get too picky. We’ll take everything in stride and hope to get better with every game.”
Tomas Plekanec, who missed Saturday’s game to return to Montreal for family reasons, was to rejoin the Canadiens Sunday night in Florida and be at practice Monday.
Meanwhile, Josh Gorges, who has been sidelined for almost a month with a broken hand, is hoping to return on April 9 when the Canadiens visit the Chicago Blackhawks. That would give the defenceman three games of action before the playoffs begin.