Rangers rout Canadiens in East Finals opener
Montreal, QC (SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers opened the Eastern Conference finals with a loud statement, getting goals from seven different players in a 7-2 trouncing of the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 from the Bell Centre.
Ryan McDonagh led New York's scoring blitz with a goal and three assists, with Mats Zuccarello tallying once and adding two helpers to help make Henrik Lundqvist's first win in Montreal since 2009 a rather effortless one.
Even the previously slumping Rick Nash got into the act for the Rangers, potting his first goal of these playoffs while also contributing an assist.
Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis finished with a goal and an assist as well. Lundqvist, 0-3-1 with a 4.63 goals against average in his last four starts at Bell Centre, needed to make just 20 saves to end his recent struggles at the venue.
"I haven't won too many games in this building, so it's good to get a great start," said Lundqvist afterward. "They have a lot of speed, but our defenders blocked key shots. We played a smart game."
Carey Price's afternoon wasn't as effective, as Montreal's standout goaltender was pulled after two periods after saving only 16-of-20 attempts. The Rangers then scored three times on eight chances against backup Peter Budaj in the third.
Lars Eller had a goal and an assist in the loss, the Canadiens' most lopsided one since an 8-2 setback to Carolina in Game 6 of the 2002 East semifinals.
Rene Bourque also scored for a Montreal squad that will attempt to bounce back when it hosts Game 2 on Monday.
"We'll put that game behind us now and move forward, but that's a good lesson," Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien remarked.
Price entered the matchup with the superior head-to-head numbers between the star netminders, having stopped 74-of-75 shots in two wins over New York during the regular season and pitching a shutout opposite Lundqvist in leading Canada to victory in the gold medal game of the Sochi Olympics.
He was beaten twice within a span of under two minutes in the first period, however, as the Rangers raced out to a quick lead they never relinquished.
Fourth-line center Dominic Moore, pressed into an increased role after Derick Brassard exited early from a hard hit from Montreal defenseman Mike Weaver, set up the first goal with a nifty backhand pass across the crease that St. Louis tapped in from the left slot 4:35 after the initial faceoff.
Moore had a hand in New York's second score as well, sending a behind-the-net feed that McDonagh dropped back to Zuccarello for a successful stuffer under Price's right pad.
"We weren't ready for this game," said a frustrated Therrien. "There were offensive errors and some defensive errors as well. "We were not sharp. We weren't ready mentally or physically to compete in this game, and that's the result that you saw."
Outshot by a 12-6 margin for the opening period, the Canadiens did come out with increased energy in the second and were briefly rewarded for their efforts.
Bourque got Montreal on the board with 7:22 left in the middle session, firing a quick wrister off a Brian Gionta give that bounced off Lundqvist's right arm and in to trim the Habs' deficit to 2-1.
The Canadiens received a power play on a Brian Boyle holding call just over three minutes later, but failed to get a shot on goal before giving New York the momentum back during the late stages of the second.
Kreider blew past Montreal blueliner Alexei Emelin while taking in Nash's pass on a transition rush, then rifled a shot that solved Price on the stick side just 1:01 prior to the second intermission.
New York struck again before the break. Brad Richards forced a turnover in the neutral zone before depositing a give from Zuccarello into an open left side with 11.6 seconds to go in the period.
The game then got completely out of hand early in the third period, with the Rangers unleashing three power-play goals on a defenseless Budaj within the first 4:36 of the frame.
McDonagh made it a 5-1 lead with a rising one-timer over Budaj's left shoulder and Stepan and Nash scored 25 seconds apart on an extended man-advantage situation created by a pair of Montreal penalties, including a double-minor to Brandon Prust that resulted in a game misconduct.
Nash entered the matchup without a goal despite recording a league-high 54 shots over the Blueshirts' previous 14 games in this postseason.
Eller produced Montreal's lone third-period highlight with 4:36 remaining, ripping a short-handed attempt into the upper right corner of the Rangers' net while fighting off a defender.
The Rangers became the first team to score at least seven goals in Game 1 of a conference final since Chicago posted an 8-2 win over Edmonton in the 1992 Campbell Conference series ... The game marked the first time since the NHL began sending players to the Olympics in 1998 that both starting goalies in the gold medal game squared off ... The Rangers improved to 8-2-0 in these playoffs when scoring first, while Montreal is 1-4-0 when allowing the initial goal ... The teams were meeting for the 15th time in a playoff series, but the first since New York won the 1996 Eastern quarterfinals in six games ... The entire Rangers team will spend Sunday's off day attending the funeral of St. Louis' mother, France, who died of a heart attack on May 8.
05/17 17:39:35 ET