MONTREAL — Well, one struggling team had to go home with two points Saturday.
As it turned out, it was the Canadiens, who seemed to want the points more, and knocked off the Rangers, 5-4, at Bell Centre for only their third victory of the season, while the Blueshirts’ record dropped to an unsightly 3-7-2; the Canadiens are 3-7-1.
The Habs dominated the first period, controlling possession and launching 19 shots on Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped all but three. The Rangers managed just two on Carey Price. As Pavelec skated slowly off for the first intermission, both Kevin Shattenkirk and Brady Skjei stick-tapped him on the pads for encouragement — and condolences.
“Lack of energy, a lack of compete,” Ryan McDonagh said. “We have the same lines and D-pairs for a couple of games. That’s no excuse, there is no excuse. We were embarrassed there. We showed fight, but the first period sticks out. We’ve said it 100 times, it’s something we can control.”
It was the most-lopsided period of the season since the Maple Leafs hung five goals on Henrik Lundqvist in Toronto in the third game of the season. The Rangers actually came back to tie that one before losing, 8-5. And they did the same thing Saturday, rallying to knot the score at 4-4 in the third, but eventually succumbed to another frustrating loss.
“There was no effort; Montreal came out hard and totally dominated the first period. You can’t win that way,” said coach Alain Vigneault, who seems more discouraged and perplexed by the day. “We didn’t have a D-pair that could make a pass. The goalie had nothing to do with 19-2 shots. We’re 3-7-2, that’s alarming to me right now.”
The Rangers chased the Habs soon after the puck dropped. Pavel Buchnevich finally got a soft shot on Price at 3:45. Shattenkirk and Marc Staal left Paul Byron alone between the circles and Jonathan Drouin’s pass found him. Byron immediately zipped a wrister high past Pavelec’s glove at 7:51.
With Mats Zuccarello in the box, Brendan Smith was felled near the end boards on a Brendan Gallagher hit, and as he lay in pain, Alex Galchenyuk converted for a 2-0 lead at 11:09. A bad hop over McDonagh’s stick followed and it was 3-0 as Phillip Danault followed a juicy rebound of Andrew Shaw’s shot at 13:15. The only Rangers highlight was denying a four-minute power play with Shattenkirk in the box for high-sticking.
Buchnevich cut the margin to 3-1 on the power play at 2:51 of the second. Pavelec made several big stops to hold the fort and Rick Nash hustled for a puck behind the net and beat Price to the right post and it was 3-2 with 7:40 left in the second.
Max Pacioretty restored the two-goal lead, firing the puck through Pavelec at 14:38.
The Rangers came out grinding in the third. Mika Zibanejad scored his seventh at 2:25, and Skjei’s long shot bounced off Tomas Plekanec’s backside and past Price at the seven-minute mark for a tie. But Danault, with another open rebound, made it 5-4 just 2:37 later.
Pavelec finished with 38 saves.
“They’re shooting from everywhere, they have bodies in front, and it was really hard for our D to handle,” Pavelec said. “We needed to win the game. I’m not happy at all.”