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Rangers ride fast start to 6-3 win against Montreal

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The New York Rangers' highest-scoring first period in more than 11 years was enough to give them some breathing room in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Brian Boyle scored 1:07 apart in a five-goal first period and the Rangers rolled to a 6-3 victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night before a raucous sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden.

New York, in seventh place in the East, moved within five points of sixth-place Montreal with 10 games left for both teams. More important, they moved four points ahead of Buffalo and Carolina with their third consecutive win at home, during which they've outscored opponents 19-6.

New York is now 17-16-3 at the Garden, where they've struggled to win in recent years.

"You gain confidence," coach John Tortorella said. "We are really happy we accomplished that. Even on the road, our starts have been better. I thought this was a real important one. With some rest in between home games, you need to find a way to win it, and we did that."

Artem Anisimov gave the Rangers a quick lead when he beat Carey Price on a breakaway 5:28 into the game, but Montreal tied it 1:43 later when defenseman P.K. Subban beat Henrik Lundqvist. But the rest of the period belonged to the Rangers.

Dan Girardi put the Rangers ahead by knocking a rebound past Price at 10:25. Callahan made it 3-1 with 2:51 remaining, Gaborik followed 32 seconds later, and Boyle closed the spurt by finishing off a 3-on-1 break with a one-timer from the right circle with 1:44 to go, sending Price to the bench after he faced only 12 shots.

"We wanted to start off good at home," Girardi said. "The fans really got us going -- they were nice and loud and we got off to a great first period."

The five goals were the most by the Rangers in any period since March 17, 2007, and the most in a first period since Dec. 15, 1999. They hadn't scored five in a period against Montreal since Jan. 10, 1986.

The Rangers managed to salvage one win in the season series with Montreal after dropping the first three and scoring a total of three goals in those losses.

"It was a big game for both teams," said Canadiens captain Brian Gionta, whose team was coming off a 3-2 shootout win at home against Tampa Bay on Thursday. "That's why it's tough to take."

Montreal chipped away on James Wisniewski's fourth goal 4:13 into the second and Gionta's tip-in of a shot by Wisniewski during a power play 54 seconds into the third that made it 5-3.

"It's encouraging in a sense, but disappointing," Gionta said of the comeback. "If we didn't fall asleep for three or four minutes in the first period, it would've been a close game."

Lundqvist finished with 22 saves to reach 30 wins for the sixth straight season -- an NHL record from the start of a career. However, he was bowled over by Benoit Pouliot with 3:39 left, taking a forearm to the head. He remained in the game, and Vinny Prospal scored on the ensuing power play to make it 6-3 with 2:45 remaining.

He left with a stiff neck that required lengthy treatment after the game.

"I haven't really seen the play or know what happened," Lundqvist said of the collision. "I was always clear, and we checked the X-rays and that was good."

It is unclear whether he will play Sunday at Pittsburgh -- if he can't go, the Rangers will have to use rookie Chad Johnson, because regular backup Martin Biron is out with a broken collarbone.

"My goal is to be ready," he said.

The two points moved the Rangers one step closer to the playoffs, but they know they're not there yet.

"You can't rest for a second," Callahan said. "Our emphasis in here is to look ahead. This was an important game. We can't have a let up here. We have to keep going."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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