The Canadiens tossed 37 shots at Rick DiPietro, but the Islanders goalie held them off all but once Tuesday night.
UNIONDALE - The unpredictable traffic jam that is the Eastern Conference playoff picture got even tighter following the Canadiens 3-1 loss to the Islanders Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Playing their third game in four nights, the Canadiens (32-27-9) were unable carry over the momentum from their victory only 24 hours earlier in Washington and now find themselves ninth with 73 points, one point back of the Atlanta Thrashers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders (32-32-4) are now only six points back of the Thrashers.
Despite outshooting the Islanders by a 37-25 margin, the Canadiens could not squeeze more than one puck past Rick DiPietro, who made 36 saves for his 26th win of the season. Making his second straight start, Cristobal Huet stopped 22-of-25 shots for Montreal.
Mark Streit got the Canadiens on the board at the 11:34 mark of the first period with his second goal of the season, when he pinched in from the point to beat DiPietro at the tail-end of a Montreal 5-on-3 advantage.
Alex Kovalev and Mike Ribeiro helped set up Streit, with Kovalev extending his point streak to seven games (1-6-7) and Ribeiro stretching his to five games (1-4-5).
The Canadiens were 1-for-5 on the power-play, while the Islanders were 0-for-2
Robert Nilsson, Sean Bergenheim and Jason Blake scored goals for the Islanders.
The Canadiens will now head back to Montreal for a pair of crucial home games against the Maple Leafs on Thursday and Saturday at the Bell Centre.
NOTES: The Canadiens were without Andrei Markov (back) and Francis Bouillon (ankle), while Niklas Sundstrom and Aaron Downey were not in uniform for the third straight game... Streit's first goal of the year also came during a two-man advantage in a 6-2 win over the Sharks on Jan. 14, the same day Bob Gainey took over behind the bench... Michael Ryder padded his team shot lead with a game-high eight shots on DiPietro.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com