Canadiens Conquer Invading Rangers

CANADIENS 5, RANGERS 4

The Rangers stood at attention during the pre-game anthem rendition of “O Canada” but by the end of the evening the tune title could have been re-written, “Oy-Vey, Canada.”

Two straight Rangers losses to Canadian teams will do that, especially last night’s defeat at Montreal’s Bell Centre where a seemingly secure third period lead turned to abject disaster.

The Blueshirts loss at The Garden on Friday was an annoyance to be sure but it came after the absurdly NHL-mandated “bye.” Canada’s fresh, wintry air figured to revitalize Alain Vigneault’s skaters and it did for a time — followed by ice madness.

This was a zany night. Starter Antti Raanta suffered a lower-body injury and was replaced in the second period by Henrik Lundqvist. For a period-and-a-half, The King appeared capable of securing his club’s 3-2 lead.

Then, IT happened — an eruption of three home team goals in 62 seconds that turned Bell Centre into a veritable arena Vesuvius.

When the dust had cleared, the story was the Habs’ ability to solve Lundqvist and turn defeat into victory.

All of this was hard to figure when one considers how the game played out with more than two periods gone by the clock.

The Rangers 3-2 third period lead turned topsy-turvy and the next thing everyone knew, the Habs were ahead, 5-3. Poof! Just like that, it was trimmed to 5-4 on a late New York rally.

From there to the finish the drama was heart-throbbing as Michael Grabner broke free from his checks and fired what looked like it could be the game-tying shot. But Carey Price’s lightning glove hand nabbed the rubber. End of threat; end of game.

OVERVIEW: The reinforcements provided by Rick Nash and Pavel Buchnevich have been helpful. But until Mika Zibanejad returns to the lineup — hopefully on Tuesday — losses such as the pair to Canadian clubs bear repair. The onus is on Lundqvist regaining his winning style and confidence.

WHAT WENT WRONG

1. STRATEGY FAILED: Entering the third period, the coaching staff planned to brake the speedy Canadiens. For half the twenty minutes the scheme worked. And then the Habs broke the dam and the goals poured through.

2. WRONG DEFENSE GAMBLE: Captain Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi were caught in the offensive zone as Max Pacioretty galloped away with the puck. The Hab ace seemed to have jets in his skates as his breakaway put him past the defenders and into scoring position. He beat Lundqvist cleanly.

3. RAANTA RUINED: Starter Antti Raanta was playing just fine until his injury. Alain Vigneault had no choice but to insert Henrik Lundqvist into the breach.

4. LUNDQVIST RIDDLED: Whether his defense failed him or a goal or two seemed flukes, there’s no avoiding the issue; for the second straight game he wound up with the L. Only this time it was in a most unusual way.

ON THE PLUS SIDE

1. HAYES MAKING HAY: Bostonian Kevin Hayes produced two assists including a brilliant set up for J.T. Miller’s shorthander that — for a time — looked like it might be the game-winner. Hayes is tied for the team lead in points this season with 33 on 13 goals and 20 assists.

2. NASH GETTING INTO GEAR: In his second game since returning from injury Rick tallied a goal and recorded three shots on goal in 17:54 of ice time.

3. A STEPAN IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: Derek Stepan tied for the game high with four shots on goal. His late goal put the Blueshirts within one with time to tie but another red light never was illuminated.

TURNING POINTS: Pacioretty beats Lundqvist on a breakaway but Grabner is stopped on his late-game breakaway by Price.

WHAT THEY SAID

1. MSG NETWORKS’ JOE MICHELETTI: “Lundqvist is still trying to find his game. But a lot of good things happened on the Rangers side as well.”

2. MSG NETWORKS’ STEVE VALIQUETTE: “Boy, the momentum change.”

3. MSG NETWORKS’ RON DUGUAY: “I’m feeling for Henrik right now. It’s not the goaltender’s fault alone; it’s what happened before the goals. Question is whether Lundqvist will be ready to play the next game. (Tuesday vs. Dallas.) But it’s not the end of the world (for Lundqvist).”

4. HENRIK LUNDQVIST: “Things went wrong extremely fast. It’s disappointing to come in and not come up with the saves. The bounces were tough to defend. I’m just trying hard to be positive now. I’ll take the day off tomorrow and prepare for the next game.”

5. MSG NETWORK’S DAVE MALONEY: “You need the goalie to make the save. Henrik has reason to be disappointed. Carey Price made the big save on Michael Grabner near the end.”

6. ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “The puck seemed to have eyes. Unfortunately the game got away from us.”

7. RYAN MCDONAGH: “This is going to sting. I thought we were competing well going into the third. A couple of plays here and there made us pay.”

8. J.T. MILLER: “It (the feeling about the loss) stinks right now.”

9. REPORTER PATRICK MCCORMACK: “The loss was a result of poor defense and goaltending. There were plenty of good signs offensively but the club must tighten up on the back line.”

COMING ATTRACTIONS: The Dallas Stars visit The Garden on Tuesday night. Game Time: 7 p.m. TV: MSG Network.

BOTTOM LINE: Expect Lundqvist to start against the Stars. This could be the confidence-rebuilding game for The King.