Bruins go down fighting

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BOSTON (AP) – Alex Kovalev recorded two goals and an assist to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Thursday night and move a step closer to making the playoffs.

Jan Bulis added a goal and two assists for the Canadiens, who are trying to make the playoffs for the second straight season.

Montreal hasn’t had back-to-back playoff appearances since three straight berths, ending with the 1997-98 season.

Boston finished its home schedule 16-15-10, its worst mark since winning 12 home games during the 1999-2000 season.

The Bruins have clinched last place in the Northeast Division and won’t make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

Richard Zednik scored a goal and Andrei Markov added two assists for the Canadiens.

Patrice Bergeron scored twice and Yan Stastny added his first career goal for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and eight of nine.

Bergeron’s second goal pulled Boston within 4-3 with 3:49 remaining, but Montreal goaltender David Aebischer survived a late Bruins flurry to escape with the win.

The Canadiens jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead and never trailed, taking the season series 7-1-0.

Kovalev fired a slap shot pass Bruins goalie Tim Thomas 20 seconds into the first period to give Montreal a quick 1-0 lead. A Markov slap shot then ricocheted off Bulis’ stick and into the net 10:04 into the period, extending the Canadiens’ lead to 2-0.

Brad Boyes assisted on Bergeron’s goal 1:07 into the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1 1:07.

But a streaking Zednik took a Mathieu Dandenault pass and slapped it past Thomas 6:52 into the second to push the lead back to 3-1.

After Kovalev’s second goal extended the lead to 4-1 early in the third period, Stastny’s goal pulled Boston to within 4-2 6:58 into the period. Bergeron then made it 4-3, but Montreal held on.

Aebischer saved 25 shots, while Thomas had 22 saves.

Notes: The 20-year-old Bergeron became the youngest player in Bruins history to score 30 goals on a season. … Boston right wing Tom Fitzgerald was out with a bruised hand. … Following Montreal’s second goal, Bruins wing Dan LaCouture and Canadiens defenseman Todd Simpson got into a skirmish and were both charged with major fighting penalities. …. The Canadiens final two games are at home. … Montreal is 18-8-5 against Northeast Division opponents. … Boston fell to 14-15-16 in one-goal games.

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