NEW YORK - It was a tightly-fought game, so it was only fitting that a goal late in the game would seal the deal and it was the Canadiens who came out on top 2-1 on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Habs opened up the contest with sustained pressure in the Rangers' end, not allowing New York to exit the zone for much of the first 90 seconds of play. Play went back and forth throughout the first after that, with very few whistles in the first half of the frame.
It would be Montreal striking first, though. Tomas Tatar drove the puck in from the neutral zone and dished it to Phillip Danault, who fed it to Brendan Gallagher who tapped it in to complete the linemate tic-tac-toe at the 10:37 mark.
Not long after the opening goal, captain Shea Weber blocked a shot that bloodied his face, but he remained in the game.
A few minutes later, Charles Hudon thought he had New York starter Alexandar Georgiev beat, but his shot rang off the crossbar and stayed out.
Goaltender Carey Price was sharp in the first, turning aside all eight shots he faced, including a couple of late-period tries from the Rangers as time ran out. With that, the Habs headed to the room ahead 1-0 and leading 11-8 in shots.
The Rangers evened things up early in the second, however. When the puck jumped over Otto Leskinen's stick at the blue line, New York forward Brendan Smith jumped on the chance and skated in alone on Price, beating him for his third of the season to make it a 1-1 game.
The sin bin got a tad busy in the middle frame, with Filip Chytil being sent off for tripping and Ben Chiarot taking a pair of minors. Neither team was able to capitalize, however. In the Canadiens' case, it was in no small part thanks to the work of Price, who was once again solid in net.
After 40, the Rangers had evened things up in the shot counter at 22 apiece, and the score was also tied at 1-1.
The game remained even through much of the final frame, but late in the period, Nick Cousins drove the puck in, brought it to the slot and fed Nate Thompson, who beat Georgiev to give the Habs the win.