The Carolina Hurricanes won't have the chance to end the Boston Bruins' season for the second straight spring, but that won't stop them from trying to put a major dent in Boston's playoff hopes.
The Bruins may need a win Tuesday at Carolina to remain in postseason position in the Eastern Conference, and they'll have to summon some energy as they close out a seven-game, 11-day road trip.
The Hurricanes eliminated Boston in overtime of Game 7 in the East semifinals last season, but it's possible neither club will even qualify for the 2010 playoffs.
Carolina's hopes are slim as the team is currently 14th in the conference, but the eighth-place Bruins are in the thick of a tight chase for the final postseason spot. Boston holds a one-point lead on the New York Rangers, who host Montreal and could pass the Bruins.
Boston (30-26-12) won't have much time to recover from Monday's 3-2 loss at New Jersey, and it will be hoping for a better start after falling behind 3-0 in the first period.
"We did a great job battling back," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "We didn't hang our heads, like you might have witnessed earlier in the year. That's a positive, but there are only 14 games left. Points are at a premium. Almost good enough isn't good enough."
The loss was the second straight by a 3-2 score after a sour first period. Boston trailed Montreal 2-0 after 20 minutes Saturday.
"Obviously, these points are huge," center Patrice Bergeron said. "We can't let them slip like that."
Complicating things for the Bruins during their longest road trip of the season has been the absence of top center Marc Savard, who is out indefinitely after suffering a concussion from a brutal hit by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke on March 7.
Including the 2-1 loss to the Penguins, the Bruins are 1-3-1 since Savard's injury, which has created a hole in an already-struggling offense. Boston is last in the NHL with 2.3 goals per game, and has been held to two or fewer in 16 of 21 games.
While Tuukka Rask stopped all 16 New Jersey shots after replacing Tim Thomas to start the second period, the Bruins didn't have the firepower to tie the game.
Thomas was also pulled at Carolina on Jan. 24, and Boston couldn't erase an early deficit in a 5-1 loss -- the Hurricanes' first victory in what ended up as an eight-game home winning streak.
Carolina (28-32-8) scored four or more goals in each win during the run, but the team finally ran out of offense in Saturday's 4-0 loss to Phoenix, which 21-year-old center Brandon Sutter missed with a lower-body injury.
Sutter had four goals and five assists in the eight home wins.
"We had our lines pretty much set the last few weeks, so it's tough to lose a guy like Sutter," forward Jussi Jokinen told the Hurricanes' official Web site. "He's been pretty good for us. We had to juggle our lines a little bit and we just couldn't find any offense."
Jokinen has been held without a goal in his last two games after scoring 16 in his previous 20 games, and Carolina's defense has also slipped lately.
The Hurricanes continue to play without goalie Cam Ward. Justin Peters and Manny Legace were initially impressive in his place, combining to allowed 12 total goals while Carolina won seven straight after Ward's injury.
But in their last five games, the Hurricanes have allowed 15 goals while going 2-2-1.