MONTREAL - If they needed a demonstration, the Rangers showed for stretches on Saturday that they are plenty capable of tilting the ice their way in an opponent's building. But the hole they dug for themselves in this one is never going to be a recipe for success.
Shea Weber scored his first two goals of the season - including a dagger of a goal in the dying embers of the first period - and Artturi Lehkonen also scored twice as the Rangers dropped a Saturday night match at the Bell Centre, 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens.
The Rangers fell for the fourth straight time on the road, and return home to Madison Square Garden on Sunday night to face the Winnipeg Jets on Vic Hadfield Night.
Weber scored early and late in the first, and Lehkonen added goals 3:25 apart in the second - after which the Rangers settled themselves and climbed their way back into the game. But the deficit was too much.
"I definitely like the way that we fought back," said Kevin Shattenkirk. "But giving up that sort of lead on the road is really tough to come back from."
Jimmy Vesey and Ryan Strome scored the Rangers' goals, with Vesey adding an assist and Mika Zibanejad picking up a pair of helpers. Alexandar Georgiev made 36 saves on a night in which he put both his frustration and his tenacity on display. The rookie goaltender lost for only the second time in his last six starts.
Video: NYR@MTL: Smith, Vesey combine for tally
And the Rangers lost in regulation for just the fifth time over their last 16 games (10-5-1), but they left Canada emptyhanded after a two-game trip that began with a 3-0 defeat in Ottawa on Thursday. The Canadiens, meanwhile, snapped a five-game skid (0-3-2).
"It's hard because it's definitely better, we fixed some of the things against Ottawa," Chris Kreider said. "It's a patience thing. … You've got to learn from it and come back better tomorrow."
Even though the Rangers fell behind early for the second straight game, it was Weber's second goal that came against the run of play and struck the biggest blow.
Sparked by a dogged shift with about eight minutes to play in the first from their third line, centered by Brett Howden, the Rangers controlled play for the remainder of the frame, coming tantalizingly close to the equalizer when Howden found a puck below the right circle and dented the bottom of the crossbar behind Carey Price (20 saves).
But as the final seconds ticked away, with a delayed penalty coming to Brady Skjei for tripping Tomas Tatar, the Canadiens winger, from the seat of his pants, slid the puck into the middle for a Weber breakaway. He tucked one inside Georgiev's left post with 7.2 seconds on the clock.
"That was a crusher. I'm not going to lie to you, that was a crusher," David Quinn said. "We had a lot of good things going on that last eight or nine minutes of the first. We had a lot of almost, and (Price) made some big saves, and to give that goal up in the fashion that we did was really a tough pill to swallow and tough to overcome.
"To come in the second period down 2-0 playing the way we did the last seven or eight minutes, and to give up a goal in that fashion really set us back."
"We played a pretty good first 20 minutes," Kreider said, "but that's hockey sometimes, right?"
Whether or not the taste of it lingered once the puck dropped in the second, the game began to snowball on the Rangers. Lehkonen scored his first of the night at 2:04, off a 2-on-1 with four Rangers trapped up-ice. Lehkonen's second came at 5:29, when he cut off Neal Pionk's pass and quickly turned and fired.
That's when Quinn used his timeout to settle his team, and settle them it did.
"We've just got to recollect ourselves - there's plenty of time in the game, not feel sorry for ourselves, and just keep playing the right way," Quinn said. "It was getting away from us a little bit, and you could see guys hanging their heads and trying to start to do things, and pressing, and trying to get four goals in one shift. We just had to chip away at it, we needed to stick together and not play the score and just have your next best shift, and give ourselves a chance. And we did that."
Vesey got the Rangers on the board at 8:10, working a nifty play with Brendan Smith after Mika Zibanejad had stolen a puck at the right-wing wall. And after Smith was hooked to give the Rangers their second power play, Strome cashed it in from the side of the net after Vesey tapped along Zibanejad's centering pass, making it a 4-2 game.
"For the way that everything kind of snowballed in the wrong direction, we were getting some chances and doing some things right," Shattenkirk said. "That was the message, to trust it."
The 4-2 score held into third period thanks in large part to Georgiev, who made 15 saves in the second, including a beauty with his left pad to deny Lehkonen a hat trick.
"It's a big thing for us that we can keep playing after 4-0," said Georgiev, who faced 31 shots over the first 40 minutes. "It's a really good thing that nobody gives up."
Asked if he liked Georgiev's show of emotion following Montreal's third goal, Quinn said, "I do, because I thought he played well after that. He made some big saves to keep it 4-2, and then we had an unbelievable chance to make it 4-3, Strome had the wide-open net and we weren't able to capitalize.
"It's a whole different game 4-3 going into the third. But it didn't happen."
Instead, with Skjei off for delay of game, Tatar stretched it to 5-2 with a power-play put-back of Kenny Agostino's shot from the left.
So the Rangers now return to a building where they have won eight of their last nine games in front of their home fans - and on a night when they will raise Hadfield's No. 11 to the rafters. The Garden will open its doors at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday; the banner-raising ceremony kicks off at 4:30.
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