NEW YORK (AP) -- When the Montreal Canadiens miss the postseason four times in five years, playoff talk tends to start earlier than usual.
The New York Rangers can certainly relate.
In an Original Six matchup Wednesday night, the Canadiens got a third-period goal from Jan Bulis and beat the Rangers 2-1. Montreal is eighth in the Eastern Conference -- which would be the final playoff spot in April -- and increased its lead over the ninth-place Rangers to three points.
"It was a playoff game," Bulis said. "It's early in the season, but still it's a team we're battling with. It's a four-point game."
Chris Simon scored in the second period for New York, which lost for the fourth time in five games and the third straight at home. The Rangers, out of the playoffs six straight years, are 0-7 in one-goal games.
"I don't think we played a bad game tonight, but I don't think we played a great game," Rangers captain Mark Messier said. "It's one of those games where whoever got the second goal was going to be the winner."
The Canadiens rebounded from a tough home loss Monday to Philadelphia, when they squandered a third-period lead.
Many Canadiens said they were outplayed early by New York, but deserved the better fate they had in this third period.
"The players realized that New York's just a point behind us, they've got a game in hand and how important is this game if we want to stay in playoff contention," Montreal coach Claude Julien said.
Bulis got free in the right circle, curled around and snapped a wrist shot over Mike Dunham's glove at 6:12 for the winner.
"I had lots of time," Bulis said. "I don't know if he was screened or if he expected it somewhere else."
Bulis also assisted on Mike Ribeiro's goal in the first period that gave Montreal a 1-0 lead.
Martin Rucinsky missed an open net midway through the third that would have tied it at 2 for New York. The Rangers were bailed out on the ensuing two Montreal rushes when the Canadiens caught the goal posts twice.
Jose Theodore made 28 saves, including 15 in the first period, and endured two scary moments just before Montreal regained the lead.
Anson Carter beat Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov on a short-handed rush, but couldn't get the puck past Theodore. Moments later, Theodore came out near the blue line to beat a rushing Greg de Vries to a loose puck. Bulis scored the next time up ice.
"That was the turning point," Theodore said. "They missed a big chance and we were able to get the lead afterward."
Dunham made 21 saves, but lost for the third time in four games.
"You can't lose a game like that at home," Rangers coach Glen Sather said. "It's sad to give up the last two games the way we've done it, but we've done it."
Simon got the Rangers even at 1 less than four minutes after he left the penalty box following a fight with former Rangers forward Darren Langdon.
Messier won a faceoff and slid the puck back to de Vries at the blue line. De Vries sent a crossing pass down to Simon, who slammed a shot in at 10:01. Simon has five goals this season, two in four games.
After going without a point in seven games, de Vries has a goal and assist in the past two.
A breakdown in the Rangers zone led to Montreal scoring first. New York forward Jan Hlavac was locked in a battle in the corner, and de Vries came down to help.
The puck came loose and was picked up by Michael Ryder, who came around the back of the Rangers net. When he got in front, he found Ribeiro -- left alone by de Vries at the right post -- for his fifth.
|Mike Ribeiro (5) ASST: Michael Ryder (10), Jan Bulis (4)|
1 - 0 MTL
|Chris Simon (5) ASST: Greg De Vries (7), Mark Messier (5)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Jan Bulis (6) ASST: Saku Koivu (8)|
2 - 1 MTL
|Bobby Holik Slashing against Jan Bulis|
|Darren Langdon Elbowing against Darius Kasparaitis|
|Darren Langdon Fighting against Chris Simon|
|Chris Simon Fighting against Darren Langdon|
|Patrice Brisebois Hooking - Obstruction against Petr Nedved|
|Bobby Holik Interference against Darren Langdon|
|Yanic Perreault Unsportsmanlike conduct against Tom Poti|
|Tom Poti Unsportsmanlike conduct against Yanic Perreault|
|Richard Zednik Hooking against Alex Kovalev|