MONTREAL — Two days after bemoaning their inability to win games away from home this season, the Rangers played another poor road game and lost to the Canadiens, 5-2, on Saturday night.
Canadiens captain Shea Weber, playing his second game after missing the first 24 of the season because of a knee injury, scored his first two goals of the season. Artturi Lehkonen also scored twice as the Canadiens handed the Rangers their eighth regulation loss — and 10th loss overall — in 13 road games this season (3-8-2).
The Blueshirts, who return to Madison Square Garden on Sunday against the high-flying Winnipeg Jets on Vic Hadfield Night, are 13-12-2 overall.
“We’re not playing with confidence right now — and for good reason,’’ coach David Quinn said. “We’ve been behind an awful lot, [and] we haven’t had a lot of success. I thought there was way more effort tonight, but not good enough. Clearly not good enough. And we’ve got to recollect ourselves and get ready for [Sunday].’’
A costly mistake by defenseman Brady Skjei played a huge part in the game.
As in Ottawa, the Rangers had fallen behind early as Weber’s left-point one-timer through traffic eluded Alexandar Georgiev at 3:53 for his first goal of the season. The Rangers began to take control in the second half of the period and looked to be in good position, but Skjei’s goof allowed Montreal to go up 2-0 just before the end of the period. Quinn called it “a crusher.’’
With the Rangers pressuring them in their own zone, the Canadiens managed to clear the puck as the final seconds of the period ticked off. Tomas Tatar streaked up the right- wing boards with it, but Skjei came over to cut him off. The defenseman’s stick got tangled up in Tatar’s skates and the Montreal forward fell down.
With a tripping penalty about to be called, Skjei stopped skating and turned to the linesman to protest his innocence. Play continued, and Weber scored on a breakaway with 6.4 seconds left in the period.
“I’m not going to lie to you, that was a crusher,’’ Quinn said. “We had a lot of good things going on that last eight or nine minutes of the first, and we had a lot of ‘almosts,’ and [Canadiens goaltender Carey Price] made some big saves. And to give that goal up in the fashion that we did, really, was a tough pill to swallow and tough to overcome.’’
Lehkonen scored twice early in the second period to extend the Canadiens’ lead to 4-0.
He beat Georgiev on a two-on-one wrist shot that so frustrated the goaltender that he destroyed his stick after slamming the post with it several times.
Then defenseman Neal Pionk made the decision to throw a backhand pass from behind the goal line in front of his own net and hit Lehkonen right on his stick tape. Lehkonen made no mistake, finishing at 5:29.
Quinn called timeout at that point and did what he could to fire up his team.
The Rangers did get two goals back before the period was over. Jimmy Vesey one-timed a pass from Brendan Smith at 8:10 for his ninth goal of the season. On a power play, Ryan Strome deflected in a pass from Vesey at 14:11 for his third goal of the season and second as a Ranger.
Tatar added a power-play goal at 10:28 of the third period to make it 5-2. It was his 11th goal of the season.