When Montreal hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night for the final time, the Canadiens will try to keep improving after making progress at the end of their two-game road swing through Florida last week.
In Thursday's middle outing of a three-game road trip, the Canadiens (27-37-6, 60 points)were blasted 9-5 by the Florida Panthers after surrendering seven goals in the first period. The loss occurred after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-4 in the trip's Tuesday opener.
Despite scoring five times in the lopsided loss in Sunrise -- Florida netted all nine in the match's first 27:33 -- Montreal was in poor spirits as it headed up the Gulf Coast to Tampa.
The last-place Atlantic Division squad rebounded with a strong showing and led 3-2 after 40 minutes in Tampa Saturday night. However, a three-goal third and Brandon Hagel's second career hat trick doomed the Habs.
One situation worth watching on the Montreal bench Tuesday will be the reaction of forward Jonathan Drouin, who dressed for Saturday's loss in Tampa but did not play a single shift.
Drouin, 27, missed a team meeting Friday, but with the absence of injured Kaiden Guhle, Montreal was forced to dress Drouin in order to field a full roster as mandated by league rules.
He became the first player since former Buffalo Sabres center Sam Reinhart on March 28, 2017, to sit on the bench the entire game for disciplinary reasons and log 0:00 of ice time.
"People are really watching your response, and you have to be calculated and firm but also fair," Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said. "And I think tonight was a fair thing, and I think (Jonathan) handled it tremendously well."
The 27-year-old Drouin is in the final year of a six-year, $33 million contract with the Quebec club and has scored once in 46 contests.
"Being late is unacceptable," team captain Nick Suzuki said. "There are things that happen sometimes you can't control, but if you're late, you're late. Just a thing that's been preached ever since Marty's been here."
The third-place Lightning (42-23-6, 90 points) are chasing Toronto for the division's second spot, which would give coach Jon Cooper's club home-ice advantage over the Maple Leafs in the opening round of the playoffs.
But Tampa Bay trails the Leafs by three points. Toronto also holds two games in hand over the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions, who have 11 games remaining.
The Lightning beat the New Jersey Devils in the first two meetings last week in Newark, N.J., but their two-goal lead at home Sunday night in the season-series finale wasted away as the Devils potted five unanswered in a 5-2 win.
"We had the game under control," Cooper said of the 2-0 lead that became a one-goal lead nine seconds later. "... A little inexcusable to give up a goal on a faceoff right away. That should've never happened. That just triggered their momentum, and they rolled.
"Then it was just senseless turnovers and managing the puck. We couldn't get through the neutral zone. ... It was horrendous."
Nikita Kucherov scored his 28th goal, making him the sixth active player to record three seasons of 100 points.
He joined Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Leon Draisaitl, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in reaching the century mark three times.
--Field Level Media