MONTREAL — The New York Rangers showed why they are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now.
The surging Rangers scored five unanswered goals and rallied to a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday to extend New York’s season-high win streak to five games.
The Rangers are 9-1-0 in their past 10 and are two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the East with two games in hand.
"We just want to make this thing interesting," said centre Ryan Strome, who scored twice and added an assist. "We want to play meaningful games. We’re making these games count. Teams are starting to see us catch them in the standings.
"We have to take care of business like we’ve been doing. We’ve come with a pretty good mindset."
The visitors started the comeback down 2-0 late in the second period.
They cut the deficit at 18:34 when Phillip Di Giuseppe skated hard to the net and deflected Adam Fox’s pass past Carey Price for his first goal of the season.
New York (35-24-4) pressed hard in the third and scored four times to keep the win streak alive.
Mika Zibanejad netted the tying goal with a wrist shot blocker-side from the right face-off dot at 11:06. The centre has a goal in six straight games, tied for the NHL’s longest goal streak this season. He also extended his point streak to nine.
Fox gave the Rangers the 3-2 lead 1:15 later when his shot from the blue line found its way through traffic and beat Price five-hole.
Strome put the game to bed with a power-play goal with 4:37 left on the clock when he deflected Tony DeAngelo’s point shot. He added an empty-netter with 1:33 to play.
"I really liked our third period, from all four lines to our defence corps," said Rangers coach David Quinn. "I give a lot of guys who were having tough nights a lot of credit because they turned it on in the third."
The Canadiens (29-28-9) have made a bad habit of blowing leads this season and Thursday was no different. Montreal has now squandered two-goal leads in four straight home games for a 0-2-2 record.
They also have a league-worst 10 losses when leading after two periods.
"We just can’t blow a lead like that," said Tomas Tatar, who scored and had an assist. "We had 40 great minutes and we were really happy with our hockey game. We just dropped it. I don’t think they played any better. We were worried to close the game.
"Something’s got to change."
The Canadiens’ thin playoff chances got even thinner. Montreal is now nine points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, who beat Florida 5-3 on Thursday, for third place in the Atlantic.
The Habs dropped to 2-5-2 in their past nine and 13-16-6 at home this season.
"That’s just a case where we have to be better in the third period," said Max Domi. "There’s no real rhyme or reason for why it happens. We just have to be better."
Montreal took an early lead through Domi’s 16th of the year at 3:12 of the first. He extended his point streak to four games when his cross-crease pass to Tatar went off Fox’s skate and in.
That score line held through most of a stoppage-filled second period until Tatar put the Canadiens ahead 2-0 on a mesmerizing breakaway goal at 17:01. After being sprung by Brendan Gallagher in the neutral zone, Tatar froze Alexander Georgiev with a forehand-backhand dangle for his team-leading 22nd goal.
Tatar tied his career-high with 58 points in 65 games this year. He had 58 points in 80 games last season.
Notes: Georgiev made 32 saves. Price stopped 30-of-34 shots in his 11th straight start. â€¦ The Rangers have won nine consecutive road games. â€¦ Jonathan Drouin missed the contest with an ankle injury. â€¦ Justin St-Pierre refereed his 1,000th game.