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NHL on NBCSN: Canadiens visit Capitals in pivotal game

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Thursday night’s matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

There’s no shortage of storylines in this one.

Let’s take the Montreal Canadiens, for instance. They could move into a playoff spot with a win. Montreal’s lot in life heading into Thursday’s game has them sitting level on points with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second and final wildcard in the Eastern Conference. Columbus (who also play Thursday) holds the tiebreaker and the keys to the spot, providing they win out.

For Montreal, it’s about keeping the pressure on and bottling some of the resilience and tenacity they showed against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday in a 4-2 win. The Habs came back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in the game before scoring twice in the third period to knock off the Atlantic Division leaders. In their previous outing, they beat the Winnipeg Jets, who currently lead the Central Division and now have a chance for a division-leader hat trick against Washington.

If Columbus wins but the Carolina Hurricanes fail to do so in regulation against the New Jersey Devils, the Canadiens would leapfrog them into a playoff spot, too. For Montreal, they could still end up finishing in the first wildcard and a likely Round 1 matchup against these very Capitals.

Speaking of these very Capitals, they can clinch a fourth straight Metropolitan Division crown with a win against the Canadiens.

The Caps are coming off a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday, one that snapped a four-game winning streak.

“Certainly it’s nice to see us battle, but there’s no consolation prizes for stuff like that,” defenseman John Carlson said following the game. “We needed to be better earlier, that’s really what it comes down to.”

Washington will be in tough against Carey Price, who’s been sensational over the past month. In his past eight games, he’s gone 6-1-1 with a .933 save percentage. That might not be a problem for Alex Ovechkin, however. He’s got 51 goals this season to pace the league and has one hand on the Rocket Richard trophy, leading Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers and John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs by four goals.

And while we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here, we just can’t help it.

Things get very, very interesting if Washington loses in regulation and the New York Islanders pick up two points against the Panthers.

Both the Capitals and the Islanders face each other in the final game of the season for each club. The game would be for the divisional crown, with the Capitals, theoretically on 102 points, and the Islanders on 101.

John Walton (play-by-play) and Joe Micheletti (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Pre-game coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Paul Burmeister alongside Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck