Montreal (29-25-2) at New York (22-28-4)

  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Mon Feb 23, 2004
  • TV: MSG
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The New York Rangers know their playoff hopes are dwindling quickly.

The Rangers have another chance to gain some ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race as they host the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.

With 55 points, the Rangers are 11 behind the Canadiens for the East’s eighth and final postseason berth with just 21 games remaining.

New York is 4-12-2 in its last 18 games, putting it dangerously close to missing the playoffs for a seventh straight year.

The Rangers have a roster full of highly paid stars, yet they’ve been unable to mount anything resembling a playoff push.

“If I could give you an explanation that made sense, I would absolutely give it to you,” coach Glen Sather said after New York was embarrassed 7-3 by the New Jersey Devils at home on Saturday.

“It’s disappointing, demoralizing and depressing. Whatever adjective you want to use pretty much fills the bill.”

Martin Rucinsky, Jaromir Jagr and Bobby Holik scored for the Rangers, who again came out flat after a 6-2 victory Thursday over the Islanders.

Jagr, who assisted on Holik’s goal, has points in six straight games. He has two goals and two assists in two games after sitting out two because of a sore groin.

Mike Dunham took the brunt of the abuse from the Devils, allowing five goals on 17 shots before being replaced by Jussi Markkanen 2:37 into the second period.

The Canadiens have not done much of late to secure their playoff position, losing five of six.

Montreal fell behind four goals Saturday before staging a late comeback attempt that came up short, losing 5-4 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Pierre Dagenais, Steve Begin, Francis Bouillon and Michael Ryder scored for the Canadiens.

“We just didn’t come to play for 20 minutes and we lost the game in that 20 minutes,” Montreal defenseman Craig Rivet said.

Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore stopped 12-of-14 shots faced in relief of Mathieu Garon, but was saddled with his fifth straight loss after allowing the Maple Leafs to score the go-ahead goal in the second period.

Theodore is 2-5 with a 3.26 goals-against average in February, raising his GAA to 2.21 for the season.

STANDINGS (through Feb. 21): Canadiens - 66 points, 4th place, 14 PB, Northeast Division. Rangers - 55 points, 4th place, 25 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Richard Zednik, 19 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 35 assists and 50 points; Darren Langdon, 117 PIM. Rangers - Jagr, 22 goals, 37 assists and 59 points; Chris Simon, 208 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 21): Canadiens - Power play: 17.8 percent (43 for 241), 7th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.1 percent (192 for 234), 23rd (tied). Rangers - Power play: 13.9 percent (33 for 237), 26th. Penalty killing: 80.5 percent (236 for 293), 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (22-23-5, 5 SO, 2.21 GAA); Garon (7-4-1, 0, 2.44). Rangers - Dunham (14-21-6, 1, 2.91); Markkanen (8-10-1, 2, 2.60).

SEASON SERIES: Even, 1-1-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 17; Tie, 2-2, OT. At Montreal, Alexei Kovalev scored with 5:06 remaining in regulation to earn the Rangers a tie. Theodore made 27 saves for the Canadiens.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 13-14-2-2 on the road; Rangers - 12-14-3-4 at home.

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