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
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
``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
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
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
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.