NEW YORK - After playing hero on opening night in Boston only 24 hours earlier, Michael Ryder whipped out his red cape once again, this time scoring the game-winner in overtime to give the Canadiens a 4-3 victory over the Rangers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Ryder, who spoiled the Bruins' home-opener on Wednesday by scoring the game-clincher with 12 seconds left in regulation, broke the hearts of Rangers' fans in the extra-frame on a long wrist shot that goalie Kevin Weekes likely wishes he could have back. The term sophomore jinx is clearly not in the 25-year-old's vocabulary, with Ryder now leading the NHL with three goals, after also scoring the Canadiens' first goal of the night.
It was also a banner night for two Canadiens rookies who left New York with a little round, black memento tucked neatly into their equipment bags. New York native Chris Higgins could not have chosen a more perfect setting for his first NHL goal, as the 22-year-old had a large group of friends and family on hand to see him stuff a puck past Weekes on a play set-up by fellow rookie Tomas Plekanec, who also picked up his first NHL point on the play. Higgins likely won the battle for who gets to keep the puck, with first goal trumping first assist, much like rock beats scissors.
Then in the second period, Alexander Perezhogin, who took the place of injured Richard Zednik on Montreal's top line, made the most of his first NHL game by beating Weekes up high after being sprung on a breakaway by Alex Kovalev. The author of the highlight reel goal of the night, Perezhogin also became the first Canadiens' rookie to score in his first NHL game since current Rangers'forward Marcel Hossa turned the trick back on Jan. 10, 2002 against the Islanders.
Jose Theodore made the big stops when he had to in turning away 16-of-19 shots that came his way, while Weekes stopped 24-of-28.
Former Habs Martin Rucinsky and Marcel Hossa both tallied for the Rangers, with Dominic Moore notching New York's third goal of the night.
The Canadiens will now travel to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs on Saturday, before heading back to Montreal to face the Ottawa Senators in their home opener at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
NOTES : Still patiently waiting to make their NHL debut, rookies Raitis Ivanans and Mark Streit looked on from the press box for the second straight game...The Canadiens have now faced the Rangers in their home-opener six times and lead that series 4-2.. The Canadiens boasted more Rangers' first-round picks in their lineup on Thursday night than New York, with Kovalev (15th, 1991) and Niklas Sundstrom (8th, 1993) versus only Jamie Lundmark (9th, 1999) ... Mathieu Dandenault picked up his first point as a Montreal Canadien on Ryder's overtime winner.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com