The New York Rangers picked a bad time for a slump and could have a hard time trying to come out of it Monday night.
The Rangers look to end their recent slide and move closer to a playoff spot when they host the Montreal Canadiens, who have won six in a row at Madison Square Garden and limited New York (29-27-6) to one goal in five of those contests.
The Rangers dropped their third straight, falling 3-2 to lowly Columbus on Saturday. New York, which was coming off a home-and-home sweep by Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey, is in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and seven points behind defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference.
"I'm obviously not happy about what happened," coach Tom Renney told the team's official Web site after New York's first home loss to the Blue Jackets. "It's a game we needed to have, it's that simple."
Saturday's game was the second on the Rangers' season-high six-game homestand. Blair Betts and Jaromir Jagr scored in the opening 5:11 of the game, but New York gave up two short-handed second-period goals.
"Whether we are ahead or behind, we start deviating from the game plan and that is when things start falling apart," center Matt Cullen said on the team's Web site. "We start taking long shifts, get caught out and start to try to do too much. Myself included, that is something we cannot allow to happen."
The Rangers traded Aaron Ward to Boston before Tuesday's trade deadline after a rift between the defenseman and Jagr became public. Ward, benched for Saturday's game, reportedly engaged in a heated dispute with New York's captain on the bench during a 3-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Feb. 3.
The Rangers received defenseman Paul Mara from the Bruins.
Jagr, who leads the team with 52 assists and 74 points, scored his fifth power-play goal of the season Saturday after getting a team-high 24 last season.
"We are feeling good. We are playing well, but I still think we have to step up better," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed more than two goals for just the fifth time in 18 games, told the Rangers' site. "We have to get back here Tuesday and play very smart and hopefully we get our power play (right), score some goals and win some games."
Montreal (33-26-6), meanwhile, moved into seventh place in the East with Monday's 5-4 win over Toronto. The Canadiens are a point ahead of the Hurricanes, but trail sixth-place Atlanta by two points.
The Canadiens, who have converted a conference-best 23.2 percent of their power-play chances, scored three goals with the man advantage in the win. The Canadiens have 11 power-play goals in 26 chances over their last five games.
Sheldon Souray scored his 16th power-play goal in Monday's win, leaving him two shy of the NHL's single-season record for man-advantage goals by a defenseman set in 1974-75 by Denis Potvin of the New York Islanders and tied in 1998-99 by Adrian Aucoin with Vancouver.
Souray leads the Canadiens with 22 goals this season.
Michael Ryder, second on the team with 21 goals, has five and three assists in his last five games. Former Ranger Alex Kovalev returned after missing seven games with an elbow injury and picked up an assist.
Defenseman Josh Gorges, acquired Sunday in a trade that sent Craig Rivet to San Jose, is scheduled to join the Canadiens for this contest.
The Canadiens have won four of five overall since a season-high six-game losing streak. Montreal lost 4-3 at home to New York on Jan. 6.