Road Warriors: Rangers win in Montreal, again, for 2-0 series lead

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The Eastern Conference final couldn’t have started much better for the New York Rangers.

For the Canadiens, it couldn’t have started much worse.

After getting blown out in the opener and losing Carey Price, the Canadiens failed to draw even with the Rangers on Monday night, dropping a 3-1 decision to fall behind 2-0 in the series while further frittering away their home-ice advantage.

The Rangers, meanwhile, proved once again to be a highly effective road team, winning their sixth away game of the postseason and fourth straight, dating back to Games 5 and 7 of the Pittsburgh series. Part of that success comes from the team’s red-hot power play, which on Monday scored for the seventh time in those four road wins.

Much like they were in Game 1 against Montreal, the Blueshirts were led by the quartet of Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh and Henrik Lundqvist. McDonagh, who has been an absolute Habs killer in this series, had a goal an an assist, now giving him six points over the first two games; St. Louis and Nash both found the back of the net for the second straight contest — the fifth goal of the postseason for St. Louis, the second for Nash — while Lundqvist was his usual solid self, stopping 40 of 41 shots for his 10th win of the postseason.

In the other goal, the story wasn’t as good.

Dustin Tokarski, making his NHL playoff debut in place of the injured Carey Price, allowed three goals on 30 shots and didn’t look especially sharp, though he was hardly at fault for the loss. Montreal gave the inexperienced netminder just one goal of offense and have now beaten Lundqvist just three times on 63 shots.

Max Pacioretty scored the lone goal for the Canadiens, an unassisted marker early in the first period to briefly give his team a 1-0 lead. McDonagh evened the score 17 seconds later on another unassisted marker.

With the win, New York is now two wins away from its first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1994; the Habs, meanwhile, will now try to become the 20th team in playoffs history to win a series when losing the first two games at home.

In order to achieve the feat, the Habs are going to have to win at least two games at MSG… which means they’ll need to conjure up some road magic of their own.

Get your game notes: Rangers at Canadiens

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Montreal Canadiens hosting the New York Rangers at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• When the Rangers scored seven goals in Game 1, it marked the first time in NHL history that a road team scored seven or more goals in Game 1 of a conference final or NHL semifinal series, and the 11th time overall. (Nine of the previous 10 winning sides went on to win their series.) It also marked only the second time that a road team won Game 1 of a conference final or NHL semifinal by five or more goals. (In 1950, Toronto defeated Detroit 5-0 in Game 1, but later lost the series in seven games.)

• For the Canadiens, it was the worst-ever margin of defeat (five goals) in a non-elimination playoff game at home. (They lost 8-2 in Game 6 vs. CAR in 2002, and 6-1 in Game 5 vs. OTT in 2013.) In the 14 previous best-of-seven series in which they lost Game 1 at home, the Habs have won seven series and lost seven series. Against the Rangers, they are 1-1 (they lost in six games in the 1974 NHL Quarterfinals and won in five games in the 1979 Stanley Cup Final).

• The Rangers have lost their last 13 playoff games which they entered with a lead in the series, the longest such streak in NHL history. The last time the Rangers won a game when they led in the series was in Game 4 of their first-round series against Washington in 2009 (they led the series, 2-1, then won Game 4, 2-1); the Rangers went on to lose that series in seven games. In the five series since then when they have held a lead at any point in the series, their series record is 4-1. The last time the Rangers took both Games 1 and 2 on the road was also that 2009 matchup against Washington.

• The Rangers lead all teams with 16 first-period goals this postseason and seven wins (7-1 record) when leading after the first period. They are also tied with Chicago (8-0) for the most wins when scoring first (8-2). Rangers winger Martin St. Louis has scored the game’s first goal an NHL-high three times this postseason, including twice in the last three games (Game 6 vs. PIT, Game 1 vs. MTL).

• Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who stopped 16 of 20 shots before leaving the game at the second intermission, is questionable (lower body) for Game 2. His backup, Peter Budaj, who allowed three power-play goals on eight shots in relief, has one career postseason start (the aforementioned 6-1 loss to OTT in 2013) and is winless in seven career postseason appearances (0-2, 5.10 GAA, .843 save%). However, he is unbeaten in two career regular-season starts for Montreal vs. the Rangers. This season, he shut them out on Oct. 28, 2013, stopping all 27 shots in a surprise start at MSG.

• In their last four games, the Rangers have outscored the Penguins (three games) and Canadiens (Game 1) by a combined 17-5. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has stopped 122 of the 127 shots he has faced during that span. After allowing 27 goals in their first 11 games of the postseason (2.45/game), the Rangers have now allowed 32 goals in 15 games (a playoff-low 2.13/game).

• Since Rangers winger Chris Kreider snapped his team’s 0-for-36 power-play drought in Game 5 vs. PIT, the Rangers are 6/18 (33.3%) with the man advantage. (Defenseman Ryan McDonagh has two of those goals.) In Game 1 vs. MTL, they went 3/7, scoring three PPG in a 3:08 span in the third period. It was the first time they scored three PPG in a playoff game since 2007 (Game 6 loss vs. BUF). Over the last six games, they have also gone 16/16 on the penalty kill.

• In Game 1, Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban led his team in ice time (26:00) and tied for the team lead in shots on goal (three) and blocked shots (four), but had zero points. Subban, who leads all defensemen this postseason in scoring (4-8—12) has no points in his last three games, and only one (a power-play goal late in Game 5 vs. BOS) in his last five games.

Five years later, Gomez trade still haunts Montreal

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Every now and then, a trade goes so wrong for a team that it negatively impacts the franchise for years to come. In June 2009, the Montreal Canadiens made such a deal when they acquired Scott Gomez as part of a seven-player trade.

It’s a move easy to criticize in hindsight, but even at the time it was questionable as Gomez came with an annual cap hit of roughly $7.4 million through the 2013-14 campaign. In the end, Gomez tanked so badly in Montreal that the team refused to let him play last season, for fear that he might get hurt before Montreal could use an amnesty buyout on him. The NHL and players association got together to allow the Canadiens to buy him out early as a compromise.

And yet, even with him gone that trade still haunts them because one of the players they gave up, 2007 first round pick Ryan McDonagh, has flourished with the Rangers. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, the 24-year-old defenseman gave the Canadiens a taste of what they missed out by scoring a goal and three assists in the Rangers’ 7-2 victory.

For McDonagh, this isn’t about getting revenge for being traded. He has long since moved and “it’s all about (the Rangers) now,” per the Toronto Star.

It could have been all about Montreal, and while the Canadiens have a great team regardless, that’s one trade they have to regret.

Seven Up: Rangers roll Canadiens 7-2 in Game 1 blowout

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Plenty of story lines were blown apart in just one game as the New York Rangers blew out the Montreal Canadiens 7-2 to take Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Rangers were led by defenseman Ryan McDonagh with a goal and three assists, forward Mats Zuccarello had a goal and two assists and four other players, including Rick Nash, finished with a goal and an assist. The goal was Nash’s first of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After all the talk of how poorly Henrik Lundqvist has played in his career in Montreal, he gave up two goals on 18 shots and only had to withstand pressure in the second period from Montreal to preserve the lead.

New York held a 2-1 lead in the second when Rene Bourque brought the Canadiens to within one, but goals from Chris Kreider and Brad Richards late in the period made it 4-1 headed into the third.

Both teams will have potential injuries to keep an eye on headed into Game 2.

Rangers forward Derick Brassard was hurt early in the first period after a big hit from Habs defenseman Mike Weaver. Canadiens goalie Carey Price was roughed up a bit after a collision with Kreider in the second period and while he finished the second, Peter Budaj took his place in goal to start the third period.

After the power play woes the Rangers had in the first two rounds with Philadelphia andPittsburgh, they scored three with the extra man in the third period and went 3-for-7 overall.

Here are the Rangers-heavy highlights from Game 1:

Video: Can Lundqvist dominate in Montreal?

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Playing at the Bell Centre in Montreal hasn’t always come with the best results for New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

From NHL.com:

Lundqvist hasn’t played in Montreal since Jan. 15, 2012, serving as the Rangers backup in four straight games at Bell Centre. He hasn’t won in the building since March 17, 2009.

Well, that’s going to have to change if the Rangers are to advance past the Canadiens and on to the Stanley Cup Final.