Their longest winning streak in four years has the Montreal Canadiens feeling better about their playoff chances. The New York Rangers are desperate to improve their postseason hopes.
The Canadiens go for a sixth consecutive victory when they face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Montreal (35-29-6) needed a tiebreaker to get into the playoffs as the eighth seed last season, and its recent play may help it avoid being in that position again in 2009-10.
The Canadiens have moved into a tie with Philadelphia for sixth in the Eastern Conference, although the Flyers have two games in hand. Montreal won its fifth in a row Saturday, 3-2 over Boston behind two goals from Sergei Kostitsyn.
The Canadiens have not won six straight since an eight-game run from March 23-April 6, 2006.
"Every morning we see the board and it's always nice to look at it after we win," said defenseman Andrei Markov, who has two goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak.
Jaroslav Halak has also played a big role in the winning streak, posting a 2.29 goals-against average while starting each game.
"It's a team game," said Halak, whose play has forced Carey Price into a backup role.
Price has not played since getting pulled after giving up three goals on 11 shots in the opening period at Anaheim on March 7.
Halak, however, is 1-3-0 with a 4.11 GAA in four starts at MSG. He struggled in the teams' last meeting there Jan. 17, tying his season high in goals allowed as the Canadiens blew a two-goal first-period lead and lost 6-2.
He was superb in the following matchup at home a week later, stopping 32 shots in a 6-0 win.
Like Halak, Montreal has not enjoyed much success at MSG, losing six of seven while getting outscored 24-8 in the defeats.
New York (31-29-9) has not had much of a home-ice advantage this season, going 15-15-6. The Rangers, ninth in the East and battling Boston for the final playoff berth, averted a third straight home defeat with a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday.
New York, which opened a three-game homestand with the win, plays eight of 11 on the road to close out the season.
"We're not going to back down," center Brandon Dubinsky said. "We're going to continue to fight, scratch and claw each and every game to find a way to get into the playoffs."
Sean Avery helped the Rangers open their home stretch in strong fashion -- while aiding Montreal -- by scoring two goals Sunday. The agitating forward also drew three penalties, two resulting in power plays, after being benched for a 5-2 win at Atlanta two nights prior.
"I don't know if that worked," coach John Tortorella said of the benching. "You guys get a little crazy with all that stuff as far as the motivation. Sean concentrated. He deserves the credit in the things he does.
"The thing I liked about his game, he let his play do his talking. That is very important."
Henrik Lundqvist, who made 17 saves Sunday after recording 29 Friday, is likely to be in net against the Canadiens. He went 6-1-0 with a 1.86 GAA and a shutout in his last seven home starts versus Montreal.