Habs Have the Goods, Top Rangers

Canadiens 3, Rangers 2

Normally, a hockey club that inherits a brand new coach exhibits an extra fizz that last for a couple of weeks.

With Michel Therrien sacked in favor of Claude Julien, the Canadiens are hoping to solidify what once was a more secure hold on first place in the Atlantic Division.

Exiled from Boston, the ex-Bruins coach Julien is being paid handsomely to recreate the Habs into a team that has a legitimate chance to win The Stanley Cup.

With Carey Price, the superior security guard between the pipes, Montreal always is reasonably secure about limiting goals against.

New York Rangers vs Montreal Canadiens

That’s especially true since the skating Gibralter, Shea Weber, heads the defense corps.

Therrien’s problem was squeezing enough out of his offense. Julien just might be able to do so with the likes of Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher and Alexander Radulov on his roster.

That sure was the case last night at The Garden, where the Habs took the measure of the Blueshirts by a score of 3-2 in the shootout.

OVERVIEW: With only a week left before the annual Trade Deadline, G.M. Jeff Gorton and coach Alain Vigneault figure to be huddling over ways and means to bolster the Blueshirts lineup. Not that a loss to a good team energized by a new coach is cause for weeping. But a good study is certainly in order at this trading time of year.

WHAT WENT WRONG:

1. POWER PLAY: Although they had several opportunities, the Rangers came up empty on the power play. They went 0-4 with the man-advantage against the Canadiens’ 23rd ranked penalty kill. The Rangers struggled to create any serious scoring chances as the skaters spent far too much time standing anchored, waiting for a pass. Often, games come down to which team wins the special teams battle; this one was no different.

2. PENALTY KILL: The Blueshirts went 2-3 on the penalty kill, which normally isn’t bad work, but Montreal’s power play tally proved to be a pivotal play in last night’s game. The Rangers had barely gotten the chance to set up defensively before Shea Weber blasted a puck past Henrik Lundqvist to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead in the second period.

3. SLOW START: The Rangers came out flat and allowed the Canadiens to establish pressure early in the first period. Montreal rode that early momentum and scored the game’s first goal 3:55 into the opening frame. The ever-so-pesky Andrew Shaw found the puck behind the net and promptly wrapped it into the open side of the cage.

4. COMING UP SHORT: Mats Zuccarello scored in the opening round of the shootout, but the Blueshirts couldn’t beat Price thereafter. Both Byron and Alexander Radulov scored for the Habs to send the visitors home with two points.

BEST GOAL: After having been denied on a breakaway chance earlier in the game, Rick Nash found himself with a second opportunity. On his first breakaway, Nash attempted a deke, but was stopped easily by Price. Nash wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Instead, he opted to snap a puck past Price’s left ear and spearheaded by a wicked release, the score was tied once more — this time at two.

BEST SAVE: At the 2:31 mark of the overtime period, Canadiens forward Max Paccioretty earned a chance to put the game on ice. Lundqvist, however, denied the Habs captain’s breakaway chance by going from left-to-right and kicking the puck away with his pad.

TURNING POINT: In the fifth round of the shootout, Paul Byron found a way to slip the puck between Lundqvist’s pads and win the game for the Canadiens.

WHAT THEY SAID:

ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “There’s no doubt, in the first period, we didn’t manage the puck well. We needed to make more plays with the puck, which we did in the second period. In the third, it was just a tight-checking game from both teams. In overtime, we had some looks. Both goaltenders tonight made some big saves at some big times.”

LUNDQVIST ON WEBER’S GOAL: “There are a couple guys in the league, [who] when they shoot, it’s almost like you have to make two saves, because you think you have it and it just keeps going.”

RICK NASH: “It’s hard, in this league, to get good opportunities, especially when you are playing against really good teams.”

COMING ATTRACTIONS: The ever-flying Maple Leafs will be awaiting the Rangers at Air Canada Centre tomorrow. Game time 7:30 PM ET. TV: MSG NETWORK.

BOTTOM LINE: There’s hardly any satisfaction in losing, but the Rangers played a good hockey game. February has proven to be a good month, as the Blueshirts have posted a 7-1-1 record to this point in the month.