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Rangers rout Canadiens in Eastern Final Game 1

by Dan Rosen

MONTREAL -- Nobody could have seen this coming, not with the recent history between the teams, the elite goalies in the nets, and the 21,273 people in the stands going bonkers.

"Yeah, I'd say surprised," New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said.

No kidding.

Bell Centre was the Rangers' house of horrors entering Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday, but they wiped away any nightmarish thoughts they might have had with a 7-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

It's the first game in the past six between the Rangers and Canadiens that did not end with a shutout; New York had been shut out in five of its past seven games here. The nine goals scored are five more than the combined total from the three regular-season games this season.

Henrik Lundqvist, who hadn't won in Montreal in more than five years, made 20 saves, and seven Rangers scored, including Rick Nash, who snapped his career-long goal drought at 15 games.

Ryan McDonagh tied a Rangers record for most points in a Stanley Cup Playoff game by a defenseman (four; a goal and three assists). It was the first time the Rangers scored seven goals in a playoff game since April 17, 2007, when they defeated the Atlanta Thrashers 7-0.

New York scored two goals in the first 6:27, two in the final 61 seconds of the second period, and three power-play goals in the first 4:36 of the third. Three times they scored twice in less than two minutes.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Monday at Bell Centre (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"We're not surprised in the way we played," Staal said. "We had a great start to the game, set the tempo right from the beginning, and were able to convert on a couple, which is big in a road rink, especially here. We were able to carry that through."

Montreal goalie Carey Price did not play the third period after giving up four goals on 20 shots. Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said he replaced Price with Peter Budaj to "protect him."

"We were not sharp in front of him," Therrien said.

There was concern early in the second period that Price was injured when Rangers forward Chris Kreider lost his balance and went barreling into the goalie's right knee with his skates ahead of him. Therrien said he thought the play was "accidental, honestly," and Kreider said he "just had too much momentum and couldn't really avoid him. It didn't feel too good for me either."

Price stayed in the game after getting some attention from the trainer, but he allowed goals to Kreider off the rush and Brad Richards from the goal line on the left side late in the period as the Rangers extended their lead to 4-1.

Canadiens forward Rene Bourque made it 2-1 at 12:38 of the second. Lars Eller scored a shorthanded goal for Montreal with 4:38 to go in the third.

"You never want to lose a game, but it's going to bring us back to earth," Therrien said. "We, as a group, have to be ready to compete and play every night if we want to have a chance to win. So we put that game behind us, we've got to move forward, but that's a good lesson."

Lundqvist's personal struggles at Bell Centre were a major storyline heading into the series, and he won in the building for the first time since March 17, 2009. He hadn't played here since Jan. 15, 2012, and he was 0-3-1 with a 4.63 GAA and .862 save percentage in his previous four appearances in Montreal.

The Rangers hadn't scored more than one goal in a game at Bell Centre since Jan. 15, 2011, when they lost 3-2.

"You guys [the media] like to talk about it, you like to ask me about it; I haven't played here in a while, but it's still the same game," Lundqvist said. "Last time I played here, we had a different team, and I think I've grown as a goalie as well. But every time you play the game you have to show yourself and your teammates that you can play. So, yeah, we got a great start here and a good win, but it's about doing it again in the next one."

Nash's power-play goal at 4:36 of the third period gave the Rangers a 7-1 lead. It might have been a meaningless goal in the game, but it wasn't to Nash, who hadn't scored since April 10, the Rangers' second-to-last game of the regular season.

"It was nice to get that one," Nash said.

McDonagh will be linked in the Rangers' record book with former captains Brian Leetch, Brad Park and Dave Maloney as the defensemen to have four points in a playoff game. Leetch was the most recent to do it, on June 7, 1994 against the Vancouver Canucks, the last time the Rangers played in the Stanley Cup Final.

"It could have been anyone [Saturday] the way we were really moving the puck and seeing plays happen," McDonagh said.

Martin St. Louis gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 4:35 with a one-timer off a backhand pass through the slot by Dominic Moore. Moore also made a backhand pass to get an assist on Zuccarello's goal that put New York up 2-0 1:52 after St. Louis scored.

Moore played extended minutes (16:36 on 26 shifts) because the Rangers were short a center after Derick Brassard left the game with an apparent upper-body injury after taking a hard, open-ice hit from Montreal defenseman Mike Weaver early in the first period.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Brassard is day-to-day. He also praised Moore.

"He did an unbelievable job," Vigneault said.


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