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Rangers beat Canadiens again, take 2-0 series lead

by Dan Rosen

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens came out fast and ferocious Monday night, clearly sparked by emotion for so many reasons.

But it wasn't enough, not against New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who turned aside 40 of 41 shots to lift the visitors to a 3-1 victory at Bell Centre and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Final.

It was the first time in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games that the Rangers had won after taking a lead in a series.

Game 3 is Thursday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"The reason why we lost the game was Lundqvist," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "Lundqvist was phenomenal. Phenomenal. Stole the game."

There were no arguments from the winning side on that point.

"Twelve," Rangers forward Rick Nash said when he was asked to rank Lundqvist's importance in the win on a scale of one to 10.

Montreal forward Max Pacioretty scored 6:14 into the first period, giving the Canadiens a positive result after a fast start in which they got the first five shots on goal and were constantly cycling and dominating time of possession in the Rangers' zone.

Lundqvist turned aside the final 35 shots he faced.

"He's the only reason why we were still in the game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

The goal by Ryan McDonagh 17 seconds after Pacioretty scored had something to do with it too.

The Canadiens had everything going for them early in the game. They were clearly being carried by the emotion in the building and the inspiration they felt from within.

There was the 7-2 loss in Game 1 on Saturday that they felt they had to make up for.

They were buoyed by the storyline of Carey Price, their starting goalie and arguably their best player, who was forced to watch while wearing a suit and tie and a knee brace on his right leg because of the collision he had with Rangers forward Chris Kreider in Game 1.

There was also the fact as a result of Price's injury, one that Therrien said will keep him out for the remainder of the series, the Canadiens were playing in front of a rookie goalie, Dustin Tokarski, who was making his playoff debut. He had appeared in 10 career regular-season games.

Not lost in the shuffle were the 21,273 screaming fans inside Bell Centre, who booed Kreider every time he touched the puck and roared for Tokarski when his name was announced in the starting lineup.

The Canadiens used it all to get off to a strong start. They even grab a lead on Pacioretty's goal, but they couldn't build on it.

McDonagh tied the game at 6:31 with a shot from inside the left point that hit off Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges and the left post before scurrying behind Tokarski at 6:31. McDonagh added an assist later and now has six points in the series.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, McDonagh is the first Rangers defenseman to record six points in a two-game span in the postseason since Brian Leetch earned three points in back-to-back games in New York’s first round series against the Quebec Nordiques in 1995.

McDonagh, who was held pointless in his first 10 games of the postseason, has set career highs in goals (3), assists (6), and points (9).

"It was an amazing contrast," Kreider said. "It was such a loud building, such a loud building, probably the loudest I've ever been in when they scored, but to be able to pot a quick one like that it's huge. You can't speak enough about it."

Nash made it 2-1 with 62 seconds remaining in the first period, scoring on a one-timer off a 3-on-2 rush with Kreider and Derek Stepan. After going 15 straight games without a goal, the longest scoring drought of his career, Nash now has two goals in the past two games.

"I think he might be getting that little touch around the net back," Vigneault said. "That's a really good sign for us."

Lundqvist made Nash's goal stand up as the winner, but it helped that the Rangers picked up some insurance when Martin St. Louis scored on a power play at 8:03 of the second period to make it 3-1.

"To tie it up quickly like that, that was important to even out the momentum a little bit," Lundqvist said. "The first period was a tough one. We knew they were going to come hard and they had a really strong 20 minutes there, but then going out in the second with the lead it felt good, we felt confident and I felt like we played really strong in the second and third. The third goal obviously was huge for us. You have to win in different ways and this was definitely a battle from the start. Then we came back to basics, I felt like, especially in the second and third."

Tokarski fought off the nerves to make 27 saves. Therrien wouldn't confirm him as the starter for Game 3, but he said they were happy with their decision to play him over Peter Budaj on Monday.

"He did really well," Therrien said.

Tokarski said he spoke with Price prior to the game, and the message was to "go out there, play your game, be a warrior."

He was solid, but wasn't as big of a warrior as the goalie on the other side. That might have been impossible Monday night.

"He's a superstar at the other end and he played like it," Tokarski said of Lundqvist. "That was probably the difference."

Tokarski was pulled for an extra skater when the Canadiens went on a power play with 4:22 remaining in the game, but Lundqvist came up with five saves during the 6-on-4 and Montreal's power play fell to 0-for-7 in the series.

Lundqvist made 19 saves in the third period, matching his career high for most in a period in the postseason. He had 19 saves in the second period of a 2-1 win against the Washington Capitals on April 22, 2009.

"You go out and you have a lot of expectations on you, but you put a lot of pressure on yourself so it's about finding the perfect place mentally where you feel like I can handle this, and you want to enjoy it at the same time," Lundqvist said. "It's fun to be out there even though it's chaos at times and extremely intense. There are moments throughout the game where you really enjoy it and there's moments when you're not sure why you're out there because it's that intense.

"But it's definitely a great feeling when you come together as a group and pull off a big win like this. It's awesome."


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