NEW YORK - Chris Drury scored a pair of goals and the New York Rangers took advantage of the Canadiens' careless defence and suspect goaltending for a 3-1 victory over Montreal on Tuesday night that was critical to their playoff hopes.
Drury gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first period and stretched their advantage to 3-1 in the second with his 22nd of the season. Canadiens defenceman Mike Komisarek coughed up the puck each time before the New York captain scored.
The Rangers (41-30-9), eighth in the Eastern Conference, moved within one point of seventh-place Montreal and two in front of Florida, which lost 2-1 at Philadelphia. All three teams have two games remaining.
New York can clinch a playoff spot with one win or a regulation loss by Florida.
Nik Antropov shook off a knee injury to get into the lineup and scored with a dive against goalie Carey Price, who played for the first time in four games following a bout with the flu and made 41 saves.
Canadiens defenceman Mathieu Dandenault scored for the second straight night in a losing cause.
New York broke out of a 1-3-1 skid to win at home for the seventh time in eight games, and did it with a dominant second period.
Montreal (41-29-10), playing without injured top defencemen Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider, lost for the second time in two nights.
The Canadiens gave up two goals to Ottawa's Dany Heatley 38 seconds apart late in the third period Monday to turn a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 loss.
Price played a dump-in at the right post, and under pressure from charging forward Sean Avery, bounced a pass off the skate of defenceman Josh Gorges.
The puck went back through the vacated crease and sat there long enough for Antropov to make a headlong dive to poke it in like a cue shot 2:37 into the middle period.
The Rangers owned an 11-1 shots advantage less than midway through the frame and built a two-goal lead on Drury's second of the night.
Ryan Callahan, honoured before the game with the team's extra effort award, showed why when he fought off Komisarek along the boards and nudged the puck ahead despite not having a stick.
Markus Naslund skated the puck into the Montreal end and zipped a shot that was deflected in by Drury.
New York outshot Montreal 15-4 in the second period and 44-25 overall.
Price, the starting all-star goalie for the Eastern Conference this season, had his head on a swivel for most of the night. He glanced back at the left post several times after Drury beat him in the first period.
Komisarek's clearing attempt hit Callahan, and the puck bounced free to Drury, who found a sliver of space between Price and the post to make it 1-0.
Dandenault lifted Montreal into a 1-1 tie with 3:04 left in the first, 11 seconds after a power play expired. Dandenault's backhander from the slot kicked in off the right post behind goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Notes: The Rangers have scored only three goals in 40 power-play chances over eight games. They were 0-for-3 Tuesday. ... Antropov, who was injured in Saturday's loss at Boston, has seven goals and five assists in 16 games since being traded to New York by Toronto. ... The Canadiens went 6-6-1 in the second half of back-to-back games. ... Montreal had beaten New York in three of the previous four meetings (3-0-1).