MONTREAL - The Canadiens weren't ready. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, before their packed and raucous home fans at the Bell Centre, and the Canadiens weren't ready.
They were able to admit that after the 7-2 thrashing by the Rangers Saturday, but the Canadiens players and coach Michel Therrien weren't as down as you might think after such a poor showing that ended with a half-empty arena and Carey Price, the Canadiens' stellar goaltender, sitting on the bench after being pulled following the second period.
"That's not our hockey team that played today," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "All over the ice, they beat us. They were on the puck, they were aggressive, they were hungry and we weren't ready. Simple as that. If we come out ready it's a different game."
"No idea," said Thomas Vanek as to why the Canadiens looked so shaky and out of sorts through the first period and for the final minute of the second, when they had appeared to turn the corner and play with some emotion and drive to cut the deficit to 2-1. "At the end of the day we lost Game 1 and we move on. That's about it," he said.
The third period will certainly stand out as a bit of a sideshow, with the Canadiens' parade to the penalty box and the Rangers scoring three power-play goals in a 3:08 span to turn Game 1 into a rout. Brandon Prust, the popular former Ranger, really turned the game south when he tried to exact some measure of revenge on Chris Kreider for Kreider bowling over Price in the second.
Therrien said he did not remove Price because of any lingering injury -- Price took a few moments to get up slowly after Kreider's collision, the goaltender flexing his right leg before resuming play -- but "to protect him since we were not sharp." Therrien wouldn't say what Price's status was and the goaltender did not speak to reporters after the game.
The third period was ugly, but the Canadiens set the tone with a lousy first period as well. They appeared taken aback by the Rangers' speed after grinding out a seven-game win over a Bruins team that can bend opponents' wills with strength and forechecking.
Montreal got its act together through much of the second, but two lapses in the final 1:01 closed the door on Game 1.
"Like you said, 18 minutes," Canadiens defenseman Mike Weaver said of how long the Canadiens played well. "We've got to play a full 60. We took a second to regroup, came out hard in the second. But we're moving forward here. After you guys leave, we're moving on here."