Brandon Prust, the tough, popular forward who carved out a spot in coach John Tortorella's lineup over more than two seasons with forechecking and a willingness to stand up for his teammates, came back to New York with the Canadiens, who signed him last summer to a four-year, $10-million contract.

With that deal, Prust said he hoped to set a precedent for players like himself, who he said deserved to be paid better because they were a key element in the overall roster puzzle.

But clearly, a part of him remains here, where Prust, even through injuries, took on all comers and was appreciated by the Garden faithful.

Before the game, asked about a comment by Tortorella, who called him "just another player in a Montreal jersey," Prust deadpanned. "He's just another coach for the Rangers."

On a more serious note, Prust said Tortorella "really taught me a lot . . . he brought out the best in me."

In New York, Prust played 190 games, had 22 goals, 33 assists, and 381 penalty minutes, and by his own words, made friends he would "have for life."

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Asked about challenging guys, Prust, who scored his second goal of the season on Monday, said: "Yeah, Henrik Lundqvist. I'd like to put a couple past him, but we all know that's pretty tough."

He had the first assist on the Canadiens' second goal Tuesday night.

Mashinter steps in

Marian Gaborik moved into the injured Rick Nash's spot on a line with Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin. Brandon Mashinter, who was called up to replace Darroll Powe after he sustained a concussion against the Capitals on Sunday and was placed on IR, was on the fourth line.