The Canadiens can't exactly be breathing any sighs of relief just yet, but they can at least breathe a little easier after a 3-1 win in New Jersey on Saturday night brought them to the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

Looking at the big board became a lot clearer over the weekend as all four teams on the list have now played the same number of games after both Buffalo and Carolina played back-to-back, with both picking up three out of four points.

But basically, winning one of their final three games or getting two loser points assures the Canadiens of that coveted playoff spot no matter what Carolina does because the Hurricanes will fall short in the first tiebreaker, which is non-shootout wins.

That's where the battle for eighth gets very interesting because Carolina is tied with the New York Rangers in non-shootout wins, and the Hurricanes got the second tiebreaker with the Blueshirts by taking the season series between the two clubs with a 2-0-2 record.

That could have been moot if New York had managed to win Sunday afternoon in overtime instead of a shootout.

Looking over the rest of the schedule, the Canadiens play every two days the rest of the way and finish the season with a standard two-game road swing through Ontario. The chances of the Leafs still being in the hunt by Saturday are pretty slim but that doesn't mean Toronto will roll over and play dead, especially if the Canadiens have left it until then to grab the two points they need to clinch a spot.

Buffalo, on the other hand, will play its third game in four nights when it hosts Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The Sabres then finish the season with a back-to-back set – their third set over their final eight games of the schedule – at home to Philadelphia and in Columbus on Friday and Saturday.

The Rangers, as you can see below, have completed the road portion of their schedule, and they did it with a stellar 24-16-1 record. Only Philadelphia, Vancouver and Detroit have more than 24 wins away from home, and only two other teams – Boston and San Jose – can potentially pass the Rangers in road wins.

The problem is that the Rangers are not particularly good at home with an 18-16-4 mark at MSG, with those road-hardened Bruins coming for a visit tonight. A Rangers loss in regulation tonight would mean the Canadiens would finish no lower than seventh in the conference should they get the two points they need to clinch a spot.

Finally, Carolina finishes up with three games in four nights starting with a difficult test at home against Detroit on Wednesday and a back-to-back in Atlanta and home to Tampa on Friday and Saturday.

So while things are looking good for the Canadiens to make it right now, keep in mind this team was in the exact same position at this point last season.

They were sixth in the standings, one point up on seventh, two points up on eighth and four points up on ninth with three games left to play.

Unsolicited suggestion for this year's version of the team? Get the two points you need Tuesday night, your final game at home. Unless, that is, all that talk about not wanting to leave it to the last game like last season was just lip service.

Montreal, 6th place, 42-30-7, 91 points (39 non-shootout wins)

Over the weekend: Won 3-1 in New Jersey

Next game: Tuesday at home to Chicago

3 games remaining, 1 against playoff teams

Home (1) – 4/5 Chi.

Away (2) – 4/7 Ott; 4/9 Tor

Buffalo, 7th place, 40-29-10, 90 points, (35 non-shootout wins)

Over the weekend: Lost 5-4 in overtime in Washington, won 2-1 in overtime in Carolina

Next game: Tuesday at home to Tampa Bay

3 games remaining, 2 against playoff teams

Home (2) – 4/5 TB; 4/8 Pha

Away (1) – 4/9 CBJ

NY Rangers, 8th place, 42-32-5, 89 points, (33 non-shootout wins)

Over the weekend: Won 3-2 in a shootout in Philadelphia

Next game: Tonight at home to Boston

3 games remaining, 1 against playoff teams

Home (3) – 4/4 Bos; 4/7 Atl; 4/9 NJ

Away (0)

Carolina, 9th place, 38-30-11, 87 points (33 non-shootout wins)

Over the weekend: Won 4-2 in Long Island, lost 2-1 in overtime at home to Buffalo

Next game: Wednesday at home to Detroit

3 games remaining, 2 against playoff teams

Home (2) – 4/6 Det; 4/9 TB

Away (1) – 4/8 Atl