"I was pretty tired, actually," Pouliot said about his goal, a bad-angled shot from the lower left circle that went over Henrik Lundqvist's blocker. "I was going to change. I had to change. My whole line was changing, but then I saw one of their guys changing and I caught him flat-footed, went around him. I saw Lundqvist kind of cheat a little bit maybe on the pass across to (Travis) Moen and I just put it up high."
The goal marred what was an outstanding performance by Lundqvist, who was named to his second straight All-Star Game earlier in the day. He made 36 saves, but it was Pouliot's shot that will keep him up tonight.
"I should have it," Lundqvist said. "He took a real good shot, but it doesn't matter from that angle. I should have it. I always play like that from the angle down there, but I should keep my chest up a little bit more. It probably would've hit my shoulder. I got a little surprised by how hard he shot it. But I should make the save."
The Canadiens (24-16-3) improved to 4-0-1 and won in regulation after going to overtime in their previous four games. The Rangers (25-16-3) had a three-game winning streak snapped and haven't won four in a row since December 2009, a span of 88 games.
Canadiens goaltender Alex Auld, who played three games for the Rangers at the end of last season, stopped 24 shots for the win. He got a little help when Wojtek Wolski, who was making his Rangers debut after he was acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday, hit the post with less than 3 minutes left in regulation.
Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who scored late in the second period to tie the score, swept the puck out of the crease to preserve the lead.
"I had no idea where it was," said Auld, who was playing in just his sixth game of the season. "I turned around and Spacek got his stick on it and swept it away. Right then I kind of knew we were meant to win the game. The bounces seemed to be going our way."
The craziest bounce of the night went the way of the Canadiens on Spacek's second goal of the season.
After nearly a minute of pressure in the Rangers zone thanks largely to Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec, Spacek fired a bad-angle shot from the left-wing boards that Lundqvist stopped initially. But Pouliot and the Rangers' Brian Boyle barreled into Lundqvist and the puck slid between the goaltender's legs and across the line to tie the score at 1-1.
The puck looked like it hit the skate of the Canadiens' Mathieu Darche before it got to Lundqvist. There was a delay to review the goal in Toronto, but it was ruled a good goal.
Even Pouliot, who was about 6 inches from the puck when it crossed the goal line, had a hard time explaining how the goal happened.
"I have no clue. I had my face on the ice and I didn't see a thing," Pouliot said. "I think it a few things. Darche says he touched it. I say I touched it with my hand so I don't know what's going on right now. It doesn't matter. A goal's a goal, and it's always fun to be on the ice when that happens."
Brandon Dubinsky scored his 17th goal of the season 4:15 into the first period to put the Rangers up 1-0. Defenseman Matt Gilroy fired a pass from behind his net and off the boards to a streaking Dubinsky, who flew past Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill along the right wing before cutting to the net and chipping a shot over Auld's blocker.
Lundqvist picked up an assist in his third consecutive game, the longest streak for a goaltender since Ed Belfour did it for the Dallas Stars in the 2001-02 season.
It was a back-and-forth goaltending battle for the next 34 minutes of game time. Auld made several great stops and got a little lucky when Chris Drury rang a shot off the crossbar during the second period.
The Rangers just couldn't get a two-goal lead, and it proved costly.
"We have to try to finish," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We had some good opportunities that were close but we didn't score. The third period has been our strength this year. I don't think we played poorly, but we couldn't score and they did."
Tortorella thought Wolski acquitted himself quite well despite arriving in New York about two hours before game time.
"He certainly was around the puck and had a number of opportunities to score," Tortorella said. "I thought he played hard. You can see his talent level. I thought he played a good game."
Wolski spent most of the game playing with Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov.
"We created a lot of opportunities but they didn't go in tonight," Wolski said. "Hopefully it continues and goes in next game."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo