MONTREAL---The Rangers are one of six teams invited by the NHL to open next season in Europe. Last night, except for Henrik Lundqvist, they were already lost at sea for much of the night at Bell Centre.
But trailing 3-1 to the Canadiens and dominated for 40 minutes, the Rangers, who had outscored opponents 47-37 in third periods this season, made a furious push in an emotional game that saw Lundqvist leap on a prone Max Pacioretty after the Habs forward bumped him the crease at the end of the second period.
At 6:57 of the third, Mats Zuccarello, in a scramble, fired the puck off the post and past Carey Price to trim the lead to one. Brian Boyle, who scored the first goal of the game, bounced one off the crossbar with 9:05 to play in regulation, and Wojtek Wolski almost tied it with just over four minutes to play. The Blueshirts had one final opportunity when Hal Gill pulled down Boyle with a minute to go, but the Canadiens---with three goals in 2:44 of the first---hung on for a 3-2 win.
"We looked slow to the puck, everybody," in the first period, said coach John Tortorella, who had engaged in a shouting match with fans behind the bench in the second period. "Hank gave us a chance to be at 3-1."
After fending off a flurry of shots on a power play, L:undqvist's emotions spilled over at 17:43 after he felt Paciortty didn't try to stop from slamming into him."I kinda lost it. It happens," he said. "In this building it's hard to stay calm.""I kinda lost it. It happens. In this building it's hard to stay calm."
Said Tortorella: "I loved it." Why? "C'mon, do I have to go into why? I loved his emotion." What Tortorella didn;t admire was Brandon Dubinsky's roughing penalty on P.K. Subban in the first period that led to goal that opened the gates. "He lost his composure there. He has to stay in control. It's a good lesson for him."
After Boyle jammed a puck under Carey Price in a scramble at 6:58 of the first, the ship capsized quickly. Three Canadiens scored on the next eight shots, two on consecutive power plays. Roman Hamrlik’s left-point slapper was deflected past a screened Lundqvist; Tomas Plekanec, alone at the right post, stopped a Subban pass with his skate and buried one, and Andrei Kostitsyn finished the run at 16:03 from the slot with a high, glove-side smash.
The Canadiens’ speed exposed the young defense, and the Rangers had one shot on goal in the last 8:28 of the first. The frustration spilled over on the faceoff following the third goal as Kris Newbury dropped the gloves with Travis Moen, but that did little to spark the shell-shocked Blueshirts.
At the end of 40 minutes, the Canadiens dominated in every category except goaltending. Lundqvist somehow stopped 26 of 29 shots. Price was only tested 12 times, and the Rangers had one shot on their three power plays. But the Rangers responded with 20 shots in the third, and Lundqvist finished with 38 saves.
The Bell Centre has not been the friendliest place. Last season, the Canadiens won 6-0 and 5-4 in overtime here last season, with Jaroslav Halak in the net. In the 6-0 game, Lundqvist was yanked for Matt Zaba. In 2008-09, the Habs won 6-2 and lost 4-3 in a shootout and in the previous season, the flying Frenchmen overcame a 5-0 deficit for a 6-5 comeback.
Last night’s game was the 12th of 18 back-to-backers for the Rangers this season, who are now 6-5-1 (5-5-1 on the road) in the first game of back-to-backs. They are 10-1-0 (4-0-0 at home, 6-1-0 on the road) in the second games, and host the Flyers tonight.