RANGERS (10-3-3) at CANADIENS (8-8-3)
TV: CBC, RDS (HD), NHLN-US, MSG
New York 8-1-1; Montreal 6-3-1
This is the second of four meetings. The Rangers won 5-3 on Nov. 5 at Madison Square Garden behind nine power-play opportunities. They only converted on one of them, but the Canadiens spent more than a quarter of the game killing penalties. The game also featured a melee when the Canadiens' Michael Blunden jumped onto the ice too soon and lit up Brandon Dubinsky
with a big hit. There were a two fights and a pair of ejections as a result of Blunden causing a too many men on the ice situation.
The Rangers are hot and rested. They've won seven straight and are playing just their second game in seven days. Meanwhile, the Canadiens are playing their third game in four nights. They've won 7 of 11 after a 1-5-2 start to the season.
During this seven-game run, the Rangers have received contributions from nearly everyone. Against the Islanders on Tuesday, it was Brad Richards
' turn. He snapped a tie late in the third period as the Rangers pulled out a 4-2 win.
"(Balance) is a big part of the club," coach John Tortorella said. "A lot of people contributed. That's the way it has to be. When you find ways to win, you start becoming a good team."
has been in net for five of the seven wins and has averaged nearly 30 saves per game during the stretch. He made 31 against the Islanders.
"It doesn't get old watching him make saves," captain Ryan Callahan
There were all kinds of mistakes Thursday night for Montreal, which also played the Islanders in its most recent game. Backup Peter Budaj
fumbled the puck to set up the Isles' first goal, and Mark Streit's tally that made it 3-0 also was the result of a series of Habs' mistakes.
"(Mark) Streit’s goal was kind of a breakdown," Budaj told the Montreal Gazette. "We had the puck and then our two players (Raphael Diaz
and Alexei Emelin
) got stuck with their player (Matt Martin) and the puck came loose and (Streit) just poked it by me. Maybe I should have that."
The Habs cut it to 4-3 and came close to tying it in the final seconds of regulation, but they couldn't crack Rick DiPietro, who came on in relief of an injured Evgeni Nabokov.
"I think we battled hard and we showed a lot of character, especially in the third period, but unfortunately we didn't get it done," Budaj said. "In the third, I tried to battle hard. I tried to focus on the next shot and give our team a chance to win. We had some chances, but DiPietro made some big saves. It was a couple of mistakes, a couple of breakdowns, and it cost us two points."
Lundqvist is 5-0-0 in his last five starts with a .942 save percentage. … His counterpart, Habs goalie Carey Price
, is 2-0-1 in his last three games. He's coming off a 25-save shutout while allowing four goals in the previous two wins.
The good news for the Rangers is defenseman Marc Staal
(concussion) has begun light exercising, but the bad news is he's nowhere near close to returning. … Defenseman Hal Gill
will miss his fourth straight game with an illness. Fellow blueliners Jaroslav Spacek
(upper body) and Andreas Enqvist (lower body) did not play against the Islanders. Right wing Andrei Kostitsyn
(lower body) could also miss the game.
The Canadiens are 21-for-21 on the PK over their last five games. The last goal they allowed while shorthanded came against the Rangers. They've killed 44 of 46 since Oct. 27. The goal against the Rangers came while down two men; the goal on Oct. 27 against the Bruins was the result of a faceoff win at the start of the power play going through Price's legs. The last genuine, 5-on-4 goal allowed by the Canadiens came on Oct. 24 against the Panthers.
"We've played 16 games, we've got points in 13 of them. That helps your confidence," Tortorella said. "We want to keep trying to ride the wave of momentum, but try to improve."