-- After a relatively calm 40 minutes in which he did little more than watch his teammates play at the other end of the ice, Montreal Canadiens
goalie Carey Price
may have thought it would be an easy night at the office.
It turned into anything but that.
However, the Canadiens All-Star stood tall with 20 third-period saves, making a three-goal burst in the first period stand up in a 3-2 win Saturday night, Montreal's second in four days against the New York Rangers.
"It was definitely a game of momentum," said Price, who finished with 31 saves to move into a tie for the League-lead with his 22nd win of the season. "I thought we had it for most of it, but in the third they grabbed it and ran with it. I thought we did a good job of holding them off."
Roman Hamrlik, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn scored in a span of 2:44 for the Canadiens (25-17-3) after Brian Boyle had put the Rangers (26-17-3) ahead 1-0.
Rangers All-Star Henrik Lundqvist has had his share of trouble at the Bell Centre over the years, coming into the game with a 4.65 goals against average and .845 save percentage in Montreal since the start of the 2006-07 season.
He admitted afterwards those wild games here were on his mind after watching Montreal put three quick shots past him. But Lundqvist was flawless after that, stopping the next 28 shots he faced to give his team a chance.
"Going into the third it felt like we had a chance if we could raise our game a little bit, and we did," said Lundqvist, who finished with 38 saves and was named the game's second star. "We came close, we came really close. So I'm happy with the way I responded and the team responded after that first period."
Boyle opened the scoring at 6:58 and Mats Zuccarello got one at 6:57 of the third, but the Rangers generated very little offensively in the 40 minutes between their goals, making life easy on Price.
"They're a quick team, but we never got near a puck," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of his team's play through two periods. "We were just slow."
The Rangers' special teams were not at their best in this game, going 0-for-4 on the power play with only five shots on goal - four of them coming during a 6-on-4 advantage in the final 1:05 of regulation time after defenseman Hal Gill took a penalty and Lundqvist left for an extra attacker. Meanwhile, the Canadiens went 2-for-4 on the power play with 12 shots on goal.
"It was a great performance tonight by the special teams," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "Our penalty-killing was really strong, our power play got us two goals and numerous chances -- really. If it weren't for their goaltender, we could have put the game away in the second period."
Canadiens rookie defenseman P.K. Subban was clearly a target in the early going as the Rangers sought some sort of retribution for what they felt was a slew foot on Brandon Dubinsky when these teams last met at Madison Square Garden last Tuesday.
But it was Subban who was the early aggressor, laying a big hit on Derek Stepan a couple of minutes into the game.
Dubinsky had said prior to the game he was hoping Subban would pull the same move in this game so the Rangers could score on the power play. So when Subban was whistled for slashing while turning down a Dubinsky invitation to fight at 7:41 of the first, it looked as though the Rangers center might prove prophetic.
Instead, the opposite happened, as Dubinsky was assessed a roughing minor on Subban at 12:10 of the first, and Hamrlik scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game 1-1 at 13:19.
"It wasn't much of a penalty, but it's a penalty," Tortorella said. "(Dubinsky) does a great job of sucking Subban in to draw him into a penalty. But then he loses his composure there, and that hurt us. They score a power-play goal, the building gets going, and that was a big momentum swing."
It was the start of a sequence that ultimately decided the game, with Plekanec scoring on the power play off a beautiful slap pass from Subban at 14:50 and Kostitsyn hammering a shot from the slot to the top corner at 16:03 to make it 3-1.
The Rangers continued getting into penalty trouble in the second, and if it weren't for Lundqvist the game would have been blown wide open. On one power play late in the period, Lundqvist made three straight point-blank saves on Mathieu Darche before stopping Michael Cammalleri on a one-timer from the slot.
The Canadiens uncharacteristically had a consistent presence in Lundqvist's crease, and when Max Pacioretty was pushed into him by Dubinsky at 17:47 of the second, the Rangers goalie had had enough. Lundqvist pounced on the Canadiens rookie and started punching him with his blocker.
"I just felt like he didn't try to stop, and I lost it a little bit," Lundqvist said, laughing a little. "But the energy on the ice and in the building makes you want to jump guys sometimes. It's hard to stay calm. It wasn't too bad. If he was standing up, I probably wouldn't have gone after him."
The Rangers still wound up with a power play but generated absolutely nothing offensively, typifying their difficult night on special teams.
The Rangers drew to within a goal in the third period, as Stepan beat Jaroslav Spacek to a puck behind the Canadiens net and made a nifty feed to a wide-open Zuccarello for the rookie's second of the season.
New York put on a push to tie the game as the Canadiens appeared content to sit back and protect their lead, allowing the Rangers to generate their only real consistent pressure offensively of the game.
On the final power play, Boyle had a great chance to tie it with about two seconds to play but Price made a save he admits he had little control over.
"I was down when he got the puck, so I just tried to make myself 4-by-6 (feet)," Price said. "It hit me in the throat and they almost batted it in, so we got lucky there."