One down, three to go.
With Game 2 of the New York-Montreal playoff slated for Friday night in Beautiful Downtown Montreal, the Rangers are secure in the knowledge that any Bell Centre House of Horrors jinx is as mythical as Mickey Mouse.
But there was nothing mythical about the I.Q. (Intensity Quotient) in the opener last night in Habtown, nor Henrik Lundqvist‘s remarkable vacuum cleaner performance in the 2-0 Rangers triumph.
To put it mildly, the game could be described as Mean and Meaner with bodies flying off each other like pinballs off a flipper.
Ironically, the Blueshirts designated policeman, Tanner Glass, also opened the scoring with a backhander that — as backhanders often do — stunned Habs goalie Carey Price with Glass’ second career playoff red light.
This was after underrated, but utterly dependable Oscar Lindberg, craftily won the face-off; a point overlooked by the scorer who failed to give Oscar the assist he deserved.
Nursing their lead, the Rangers employed their fourth line — led by Glass — more than most and the unit was rewarded for its efforts.
Make no mistake, this was a game of mistakes. There were giveaways and takeaways on both sides, but the opposing goaltenders erased the mistakes with accurate puck-stopping at both ends.
In the final 10 minutes of the third period, the Habs amped up their offense, but the Blueshirts met rush with rush. Girardi, among others, was strong on defense.
With 5:40 remaining in the third, New York went on the power play which already had been 0-for-3, including a two-man advantage.
Kevin Hayes had the best opportunity with an angled shot that had Price looking behind him, but Carey managed to corral the rubber as the man advantage evaporated.
With 2:30 remaining and the faceoff in the Rangers zone, the Blueshirts iced the puck and another faceoff was held with 2:12 left with the Montrealers desperately seeking an opening.
Blocking shots as if their lives depended on it, the Rangers finally sunk the Habs with Michael Grabner‘s open-netter and exited laughing. New York still boasts the best road team in the NHL.
OVERVIEW: Scoring first in the opener on the road inspires confidence and Glass’ backhander did just that. Overall, the Blueshirts traded chance for chance with the home club. The crowd, raucous as it was, hardly intimidated the visitors. Another one like this on Friday and the Rangers could come home leading by two games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- RULE BY REGENT: Lundqvist was flawless in blanking the Habs. Nor was he ever lucky. His saves were measured and made with the utmost confidence. Significantly, he was one goal better than Carey Price who flubbed the Glass shot in the first period. And there went the game. “Hank bailed the team out when needed,” said MSG Networks’ analyst Steve Valiquette. The 31 saves defined Henny’s game. It was his 10th career playoff shutout.
- FOURTH LINE IS FIRST: Led by Glass’ goal — produced by an Lindberg faceoff win — and with Jesper Fast, the fourth line was as good as the first, second or third.
- INTIMIDATED? NEVER: Montreal features the bigger players but the Blueshirts were unfazed. The New Yorkers traded hit for hit, check for check. Never were the visitors intimidated.
- FIERCELY FORECHECKERS: As the Canadiens pressed for the tying goal, Alain Vigneault‘s skaters forechecked the Habs into constant retreat.
- A GRABBER BY MICHAEL: With the Canadiens’ net open in the final minute, tenacious Grabner grabbed the puck along the right boards in the enemy zone and threaded the needle for New York’s “cushion” goal.
- KREIDER UNTOUCHED: Despite all the pre-game hype in the Montreal media about the Habs “getting even” with Chris Kreider, no such attempt was made. The large forward played his usual aggressive game with not a bit of retaliation from the home skaters.
TURNING POINT: The Glass goal defused both the Price myth and the crowd since it followed a Canadiens full-ice press that produced nothing but noise. From the first period red light on, the Habs were forced to play catch-up hockey and their scorers were not up to the challenge.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- MSG NETWORKS’ ANALYST RON DUGUAY: “The hitting was everything we expected and the Rangers were ready for it and were controlling their emotions.”
- MSG NETWORKS’ ANALYST STEVE VALIQUETTE: “The Canadiens undisciplined play showed that the Rangers have more experience. And let’s not forget that Oscar Lindberg was everywhere.”
- RYAN MCDONAGH: “Hank stopped everything he could see. We knew he was going to bring it. His focus was an inspiration to the entire team. Tanner’s goal settled us down.”
- MSG NETWORKS’ ANALYST DAVE MALONEY: “The Rangers looked like a veteran team — been here, done that.”
- MSG NETWORKS’ ANALYST JOE MICHELETTI: “The Rangers didn’t give up many second and third opportunities and did a good job blocking shots.”
- HENRIK LUNDQVIST: “This was one of my better games. After Tanner’s goal we played a smart game. Everyone left everything he had out there. The structure we had made it easier for me. Tonight we got the results. And let’s not forget the great job done by our penalty-killers. I had butterflies for two days to get going. It’s just nice to get going and test yourself. I was excited to see how great we played.”
- ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “Hank played the way we expected him to play. After the early part of the game we got going and got better in the second and third periods. As for the fourth line, we tried to play our bench tonight and roll four lines.”
- TANNER GLASS: “On my goal, I had a little bit of time but I just wanted to get it high. The Bell Centre is a tough place to play but we stayed the course. Our line doesn’t make the fancy play, but we all support each other. I just do my best to help the team.”
- DEREK STEPAN: “When the Canadiens made the plays around us we shut them down. In the third period we played ‘A Playoff Third Period.’ Now we look to Game 2.”
BOTTOM LINE: When Lundqvist out-goals Price at Bell Centre, as he did in Game 1, it has to concern the Canadiens. It should and it will heading into Game Two. Beware of The King, Montreal!