NEW YORK (AP) _ Montreal's Jose Theodore was so determined to snap his long losing streak, he treated his latest start like it was a postseason contest.
It might be the closest the New York Rangers come to the playoffs.
Theodore made 31 saves in putting his five-game losing run behind him, and Saku Koivu had a goal and two assists, helping the Canadiens beat the Rangers 4-1 Monday night.
Since playing in this year's All-Star game, Theodore, the NHL MVP and the Vezina Trophy winner two seasons ago, was 0-5 with an .873 save percentage.
``Sometimes when a team is losing, you just try to do too much,'' Theodore said. ``I took a different focus and approached it like a playoff game.''
The Canadiens, tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference, lead the 12th-place Rangers by 13 points. With 20 games remaining, it appears New York will miss the playoffs for the seventh straight year.
``There can't be anybody in that room who doesn't know where we are,'' Rangers coach Glen Sather said. ``It is the point now where we can't lose any more hockey games.''
Montreal, with 19 games left, stretched its lead at the playoff cutoff to five points over Buffalo. Mike Ribeiro had a goal and assist, and Patrice Brisebois and Jason Ward also scored for the Canadiens, who won for the second time in seven games (2-5).
``We had 12 points between Buffalo and us and now they're right behind us,'' Koivu said. ``We haven't played that bad, but we haven't been able to win the games.''
Jaromir Jagr scored for New York, outscored 11-4 in two losses since beating the Islanders. The Rangers have dropped five of six and are 4-13-2 in their last 19.
``We obviously didn't have it the last two games,'' forward Bobby Holik said. ``We didn't even come close to being competitive.''
Rangers fans booed struggling goaltender Mike Dunham early, then began chants of ``Fire Sather!'' at the beleaguered coach and general manager.
``This was a big game,'' Koivu said. ``I wouldn't say that they're done because they have so much talent, and if they get it going they are going to be tough to beat. At the same time, they only have 18 or 19 games left and the other teams are going to win some games, too.''
It didn't take long for Dunham to give fans something to really be upset about.
Koivu took a pass from Jan Bulis while gliding untouched down the slot and let go an unscreened shot that beat Dunham 1:31 in.
The Rangers didn't get the puck across center ice until 1:20 had elapsed.
It took until the closing minute of the first period for the Canadiens to double the lead. Pierre Dagenais made a quick pass from behind the net to Ribeiro, who scored with 5.3 seconds left in the period on Montreal's ninth shot.
Most of the second period belonged to the Rangers, who got 17 shots on Theodore, but scored only once _ despite having a pair of two-man advantages that each lasted more than a minute.
In contrast, the Canadiens also scored once in the period even though they only got five shots, none in the first 12:42.
New York managed two shots during its first five-on-three that lasted 1:23. The Rangers took advantage of the second one that came with less than nine minutes left.
When Andreas Dackell and Steve Begin were sent off 24 seconds apart, Jagr stretched his points streak to seven games.
He banged in a rebound of Holik's shot at 13:28 to bring the Rangers to 2-1 and give him six goals and six assists during his scoring spurt.
The Canadiens were on a delayed penalty when Begin streaked in alone to record their first shot of the second period. The advantage grew to a five-on-three when Brian Leetch was sent off 51 seconds later.
Just 25 seconds into the two-man advantage, Brisebois ripped a shot that trickled through Dunham's pads.
Ward scored his first goal in 31 games when he deflected in Koivu's drive 3:01 into the third period.
|Saku Koivu (11) Wrist shot - ASST: Jan Bulis (14), Stephane Quintal (3)|
1 - 0 MTL
|Mike Ribeiro (16) Wrist shot - ASST: Pierre Dagenais (8), Michael Ryder (29)|
2 - 0 MTL
|PPG - Jaromir Jagr (23) Wrist shot - ASST: Bobby Holik (27), Brian Leetch (21)|
2 - 1 MTL
|PPG - Patrice Brisebois (4) Slapshot - ASST: Saku Koivu (29), Mike Ribeiro (36)|
3 - 1 MTL
|Jason Ward (2) Tip-in - ASST: Saku Koivu (30), Francis Bouillon (9)|
4 - 1 MTL
|Jed Ortmeyer Interference|
|Pierre Dagenais Hooking - Obstruction against Mark Messier|
|Jason Ward Tripping against Alex Kovalev|
|Andreas Dackell Slashing against Dale Purinton|
|Steve Begin Hooking against Martin Rucinsky|
|Tom Poti Fighting (maj) against Francis Bouillon|
|Francis Bouillon Fighting (maj) against Tom Poti|
|Martin Rucinsky Hooking - Obstruction against Joseph Juneau|
|Brian Leetch Hi-sticking against Mike Ribeiro|
|Brian Leetch Hooking against Andreas Dackell|
|Boris Mironov Tripping - Obstruction against Steve Begin|
|Mike Ribeiro Hooking against Brian Leetch|