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Rangers' speed a big factor in Game 1 victory

by Dan Rosen

MONTREAL -- The New York Rangers aren't sure if they surprised the Montreal Canadiens with their speed in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

"I can't answer to what they were expecting from us," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

Even if it were true, the Canadiens won't admit that they underestimated the Rangers' speed.

"No, it's a bad game," Montreal forward Brandon Prust said.

That goes without saying when you lose 7-2, as the Canadiens did Saturday, but they lost by that margin in large part because the Rangers' overall team speed seemed to overwhelm them, if not surprise them.

Rangers forward Chris Kreider got in behind the Canadiens defense, particularly victimizing Alexei Emelin down the left side, at least a half-dozen times. He scored his goal late in the second period because he used his speed to blow past Emelin.

Kreider did the same thing earlier in the period on the play that led to him barreling feet first into Montreal goalie Carey Price.

"[Kreider's] speed can catch anybody by surprise," Rangers center Brad Richards said. "It's crazy how fast he is and the size he is. He's just a fast player."

Rangers defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh each said the key to the speed game was avoiding turnovers. New York immediately got Montreal on its heels with a fast start that led to a 2-0 lead 6:27 into the game, but the early two-goal advantage didn't lead to any complacency with the puck.

"When we're turning pucks over, we're on our heels, so we want to make sure we're getting pucks deep, getting on the forecheck and making their D make plays," Girardi said. "I thought we did a good job of that."

The irony is that speed was one of the Canadiens' biggest strengths in their seven-game series win against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Second Round. Now they have to figure out a way to skate with a team just as fast as them, if not faster, starting with Game 2 on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"We know that's a big strength of ours," McDonagh said. "It's a matter of allowing us to play to our strengths with being good with the puck, making good decisions when we have it, and not spending a lot of time in our zone so we have some good energy to go on the attack. So a lot of things need to happen first before we can utilize the strength of our speed and forecheck and creativity."

The Rangers, though, expect the Canadiens to pick up their pace in Game 2. They're thinking their seven-goal outburst and the five-goal differential in Game 1 will be nothing more than an aberration in this series.

"I'm sure they're ready for a series," Richards said of the Canadiens. "We had a night like that against Pittsburgh in Game 4. It didn't mean we were a bad team. We regrouped. It's just one of those nights where things didn't go right for them. We're fortunate now that we're up 1-0, but I'm sure they know about the speed, they know about what we do, and they'll be ready to play."


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