The injury-riddled Montreal Canadiens might be reeling from a listless effort, but they're still comfortably in playoff position. An untimely losing streak has the Minnesota Wild's postseason hopes fading fast.
The Canadiens will likely need a better effort if they're going to capitalize on the spiraling Wild in the teams' lone meeting of the season Sunday night in Minnesota.
Montreal (39-26-7) has dropped three of five, including a 6-3 loss at the New York Rangers on Friday. The Canadiens never recovered from a sloppy opening period, which saw them outscored 5-1 while surrendering the final three goals in a 1:07 span.
The poor performance might have been explained by Montreal's missing nine players due to injury and playing one night after a 3-2 shootout win over Tampa Bay, but captain Brian Gionta wouldn't agree.
"That's no excuse," Gionta told the team's official website. "That's not why those plays happened; it's not fatigue. We lost focus and made some plays we normally aren't making. For parts of this game we just fell asleep and that's what ultimately hurt us.
"Unfortunately, we weren't doing a very good job of coming up the ice together with the puck. It was sloppy and we weren't supporting each other."
The Canadiens remain sixth in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of the seventh-place Rangers and nine in front of Carolina for ninth.
Injuries might remain an issue. It's unclear if defenseman Hal Gill (illness) and forwards Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern (lower-body injuries) will return after sitting out the last two games. Defenseman Brent Sopel has missed five games with an injured hand.
Plekanec leads Montreal with 53 points, including seven in his last nine games.
Gionta has tried to pick up the scoring slack in Plekanec's absence, getting two goals and one assist over the last two games. The right wing leads the Canadiens with 26 goals, and he's scored four in his last four matchups with Minnesota (35-29-8), which has seen its playoff chances damaged by a five-game skid.
The Wild, who last dropped six in a row Dec. 5-17, 2008, are 11th in the West, six points behind the seventh-place tie between Nashville and Chicago.
They overcame a two-goal, third period deficit Saturday, but fell 5-4 in overtime to Columbus to open a four-game homestand. Brent Burns turned the puck over in front of his own net after a face-off and Antoine Vermette converted it into the game-winner for the Blue Jackets with 33.5 seconds left in the extra session.
"I fanned on it or missed it. It's a bad bounce," said Burns, who leads Minnesota defensemen with a career high-tying 43 points.
The Wild have been outscored 20-8 during their losing streak, but Mikko Koivu has provided an offensive spark over the last three games after missing 11 with a broken finger. The center has one goal and three assists since his return, giving him 53 points on the season -- second behind Martin Havlat's team-high 60.
Havlat has just one assist in his last five games after recording 11 in his previous 10.
Koivu scored the eventual game-winner goal in Minnesota's last meeting with the Canadiens, a 3-1 victory in Montreal on Dec. 17, 2009.
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