The Rangers appeared to be building momentum after a season-high, four-game unbeaten streak from Nov. 23-28 moved them two games over .500, but three losses in four games have dropped them back to the break-even mark.
New York got back into the win column with a 4-2 victory over the archrival New York Islanders on Thursday, but a poor third period Sunday resulted in a 3-2 loss to visiting Tampa Bay.
“We played like what we are, a .500 hockey club,” Rangers captain Mark Messier said. “That’s exactly where we sit and it’s because we don’t do the things that it takes to win on a regular basis.”
Tampa Bay’s go-ahead goal came on the power play—marking the sixth straight game New York has allowed a goal while shorthanded.
Rangers goalie Mike Dunham has just one win in his last seven starts (1-4-2)—a stellar 37-save performance Thursday against the Islanders.
Montreal also failed to protect a third-period lead in its last game and ended up with a 3-2 loss to red-hot Philadelphia on Monday.
Pierre Dagenais scored one goal and set up another for the Canadiens, unbeaten in a season-best five straight (3-0-2) before Monday. The loss was also Montreal’s first this season in 10 games when leading after two periods.
Canadiens coach Claude Julien was pleased with his team despite the loss.
“If it wasn’t our best game, it was close,” Julien said. “I consider it our best effort of the season. The only negative was the final score.”
Richard Zednik’s second-period goal was his seventh in the last nine games and his team-leading ninth of the season.
With backup Mathieu Garon starting in net Monday, Jose Theodore figures to start Wednesday. Theodore struggled in his first game this season against the Rangers, allowing five goals on 27 shots in a 5-1 loss on Nov. 1.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 8): Canadiens - 28 points, 4th place, 9 PB, Northeast Division. Rangers - 27 points, 3rd place, 14 PB, Atlantic Division.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 8): Canadiens - Power play: 13.9 percent (15 for 108), 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.8 percent (83 for 104), 27th. Rangers - Power play: 15.2 percent (15 for 99), 18th. Penalty killing: 83.0 percent (112 for 135), 22nd.
GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (10-10-2, 4 SO, 2.25 GAA); Garon (2-3-1, 2.31). Rangers - Dunham (6-9-4, 1, 2.46); Jussi Markkanen (4-2-1, 2, 2.47).
SEASON SERIES: Rangers, 1-0.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 5-5-1-1 on the road; Rangers - 6-4-2-2 at home.