MONTREAL – For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Canadiens and Rangers will do battle in the playoffs.
Contrary to when they eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, the Habs didn’t have to wait long to learn the identity of their next opponent. Before the opening face-off even took place on Wednesday night at TD Garden in Boston, the winner of the Canadiens-Bruins tilt was already assured of going up against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals after New York overcame a 3-1 series deficit in Round 2 and eliminated the Penguins in seven games.
The Canadiens and Rangers met on three occasions during the 2013-14 campaign, with Montreal winning twice and suffering one defeat. Michel Therrien’s troops spoiled the Rangers’ season-opener on Oct. 28 with a 2-0 victory at Madison Square Garden. Peter Budaj bested Henrik Lundqvist by stopping all 27 shots he faced to pick up the shutout. Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk scored for the Canadiens.
The two teams met again a little over two weeks later on Nov. 16 at the Bell Centre, and it was Rangers backup Cam Talbot’s turn to put on a show. Talbot was perfect against the Canadiens, while Ryan Callahan tallied for New York to give the visitors a 1-0 win.
In what now can only be described as a prelude to their matchup in Round 3, the Canadiens and Rangers concluded the 2013-14 regular season with a tilt against one another in Montreal. As was the case in their first two matchups, fans in attendance were treated to a tight affair, with no goals being scored in regulation time. Brian Gionta was the eventual hero, as he beat Talbot on a penalty shot in overtime. While the Rangers’ netminder was solid, Price was equally stellar, picking up his sixth shutout of the year with a 41-save performance.
If Montreal and New York’s last meeting in the regular season came just a short time ago, it’s been quite some time since the two Original Six franchises went head-to-head in the playoffs back in 1995-96. The Canadiens won the first two games, before the Rangers picked up four straight wins to come out on top in the series.
When the opening faceoff takes place on Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre, it will mark the 15th postseason meeting between the two teams. The Canadiens and Rangers split the 14 previous playoff matchups, with each club boasting seven playoff series wins each.
The stage is now set for what should be an exciting series. Let’s not forget that fans will be privy to a goaltending duel for the ages, as both Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist battled for the gold medal in Sochi earlier this year. May the best man win!
Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
Silencing the critics