MONTREAL - In the first game between the Canadiens and Rangers since last season's Eastern Conference finals, Montreal raised its record to 7-1 with a convincing 3-1 victory at the Bell Centre Saturday night.
Trailing 2-1 in the third period, the Rangers sustained pressure for most of the first five minutes. But the Canadiens' Dale Weise won a battle with Kevin Klein behind the Rangers' net and his backhand feed found Max Pacioretty on the doorstep, ahead of Marc Staal, at 6:35. It gave the Canadiens a two-goal advantage for the first time in the game.
Each team hadn't played since Tuesday, and the pace was intense at times. But goaltender Carey Price (34 saves) stayed poised and calm and the Rangers' top players -- Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis and Chris Kreider -- were silent. As a result, the Rangers (4-4) had their winning streak halted at three.
Lars Eller gave the Canadiens a 2-1 lead at 11:46 of the second period. With Derick Brassard in the penalty box, the Rangers pulled together for an effective kill, but moments later, John Moore and Staal failed to clear the crease. Brendan Gallagher and Weise kept the puck alive and Eller was credited with his first goal of the season.
Said Henrik Lundqvist, "To beat this team here, you have to be very careful with the puck. They're hungry around there [in front of the net].''
At 17:07 of the first period, Carl Hagelin, at the right post, buried a rebound to give the Rangers a 1-1 tie. Dan Girardi's point shot deflected off a Montreal player and forced Price to make the initial save, but the puck came right to Hagelin for his second goal of the season.
The Rangers were shaky from the start, losing eight of the first nine faceoffs and having trouble coping with Montreal's speed.
On the Rangers' first power play, with Weise off for interference at 5:18, the Rangers didn't come close to testing Price, who was playing his first game against them since Game 1 of last season's Eastern Conference finals, when he was knocked out of the series with a knee injury.
On the Rangers' second power play, with Manny Malhotra in the box for holding at 11:22, things got worse.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh pinched at the blue line, an unwise move that allowed Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec to break toward Lundqvist on a two-on-none. They made several passes before Plekanec beat Lundqvist for a shorthanded goal at 12:06.
"I don't think we got through the neutral zone as well as we did the last few games,'' McDonagh said. "You let this team play on half a sheet, they can make you look bad. We didn't have enough sustained momentum. Very unfortunate with the early power plays. We don't get anything going there and give up one -- a bad decision by myself.''
Said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, "The game boils down to our power play gives them a two-on-oh, and they were the better team in front of both nets. They won two battles that end up in the back of our net and we couldn't get to any second opportunities in front of their net. All Price has to do is stop the first shot.''