Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist hasn't won in Montreal since 2009
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Turn back the clock to Nov. 16.
The Rangers had lost eight straight games at Bell Centre in Montreal, and before they would face the Canadiens that night, coach Alain Vigneault told them that he had coached in Montreal, and "that there are no ghosts in this building, [you] have nothing to be afraid of."
The Blueshirts went out and won, 1-0, for the first time in Montreal since March 17, 2009, on Ryan Callahan's goal and 22 saves from backup goaltender Cam Talbot.
But can Henrik Lundqvist, who will be in goal for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Saturday afternoon, do anything different to shake the feeling that he personally has been spooked by Bell Centre, where he is 4-5-2 with a 3.87 goals-against average and .876 save percentage?
"It's so long since I've played there, I don't really remember," said Lundqvist, who hasn't started there since a 4-1 loss on Jan. 15, 2012, and hasn't won since that March 17, 2009 shootout victory, 4-3. "I look forward to going there," he said after practice here Thursday. "It's a conference final in Montreal. You don't overthink it . . . There's been some different types of games up there, but there's been some solid ones as well."
Former coach John Tortorella was aware of Lundqvist's record, and Martin Biron played both games in 2012-13, both 3-0 losses. Talbot started both games this year.
"It just happened that way," Vigneault said. "Our last game of the year [1-0 overtime loss on April 12], basically meant nothing for both teams, so I just wanted to get Hank a rest. Wherever we would have played, Boston or Montreal -- I know Hank would have been excited. It's Montreal. I'm sure he's ready to play."
Lundqvist acknowledged that the history, the surroundings and intense fans make the building special. "Every time you play in an atmosphere like that, it's a good feeling when you go in and win," he said.
Talbot, who allowed one goal and made 49 saves there this season, said that with the way Lundqvist has played the last four or five games, "I'm not thinking about [playing]. You never want that situation to come up, but if the opportunity arises, I'll do my best to be ready."
Scoring would ease some of the pressure on Lundqvist. Mats Zuccarello, the last current Ranger to score a goal at Bell Centre, on Jan. 15, 2011, explained: "It's a tough building to play in. We know we're in a really good position, know [the series] is not going to be easy. They come in with confidence, we come in with confidence; some lucky bounces and small plays are going to end up being the difference."
Between Games 1 and 2, the Rangers plan to attend the funeral of Martin St. Louis' mother, France, on Sunday. France St. Louis, 63, suffered a heart attack last Thursday. Initially, the funeral was scheduled for Saturday just outside Montreal, but because Game 1 is set to begin at 1 p.m., the Rangers asked the NHL if the game could be pushed back to the evening. But because of the schedule and NBC programming commitments (the Preakness Stakes, with post time at 6:18 p.m.), the switch could not be made. The family then moved the services to Sunday. "We couldn't move the time of the game," said Vigneault, "so Marty being who he is, was able to move the funeral to Sunday. So, as a team we'll be able to attend and hopefully, we'll play a good game Saturday and get ready for the next one after."