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Rangers’ big guns finally score a few goals against Canadiens

Michael Grabner, #40, of the New York Rangers

Michael Grabner, #40, of the New York Rangers skates in all alone on goaltender Carey Price, #31, of the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals during the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on Friday, April 14, 2017, at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Credit: Getty Images / Minas Panagiotakis

MONTREAL — The big guns began to fire Friday night in Game 2 as Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash scored and Michael Grabner contributed his second goal in two games, but the defense cracked and Henrik Lundqvist again was forced to play the savior. He made 54 saves in the Rangers’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Canadiens.

Grabner, who was snakebit in the last 22 games of the season, beat Carey Price on a breakaway in the first period. Canadiens defenseman Nikita Nesterov fumbled the puck near the red line, and it was scooped up by Grabner. Price came out to challenge, and as he was backing up, Grabner deked, went right and flipped in a high backhand at 13:48 to tie it 2-2.

During the season, Nash scored twice in the three losses to the Canadiens. But the big winger, who entered the game with only 11 goals and 22 assists in 61 playoff games as a Ranger, had said he needed to create more Grade-A scoring chances.

During the season, he had six power-play goals, one shorthander and three game-winners. In Game 1 he had three shots on Price and three other attempts blocked.

Rookie Jimmy Vesey set up Nash coming down the left side, and he wired a top corner shot past Price to pull the Blueshirts into a 2-2 tie at 9:58 of the second period.

Zuccarello had two shots on goal, one attempt blocked, two misses and two hits in 20:17 of Game 1. The diminutive but feisty winger led the Rangers with 59 points this season, including five power-play goals and three game-winning goals, and was 7-17-24 in 49 playoff games before Friday night.

Zuccarello gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead after Brendan Smith won a determined battle along the left boards in the Canadiens’ zone. He got the puck loose to Derek Stepan, who found Zuccarello at the right post for a redirect past Price at 14:47.

But some of the other top nine forwards were quiet.

Chris Kreider, whose collision after being tripped on a breakaway knocked out Price in the 2014 Eastern Conference finals and who avoided a possible crash with Price in Game 1 when he veered off on a race for the puck, had scored only one goal in the three regular-season losses to the Canadiens.

Kreider, who said he would continue to play his hard-nosed, crease-front style, took a penalty in the overtime.

J.T. Miller, who had scored once in the three regular-season losses to the Canadiens, had a career-high 34 assists and points (56) and was the only Ranger who played 82 games.

Mika Zibanejad had produced only nine goals and 22 points in 37 games since returning from a broken left fibula on Jan. 17.


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