The New York Rangers got goals from seven different players in a playoff game for the first time in 31 years to rout the Montreal Canadiens 7-2 in the opening game of the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference finals.
It was the fourth straight postseason win -- and third in a row on the road -- for the Rangers, who have outscored opponents 17-5 over that stretch. New York had been shut out twice and held to a single goal in three regular-season games against the Canadiens.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven playoff series is scheduled for tomorrow in Montreal. The Rangers, seeking their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1994, have a 34-12 all-time playoff series record when they’ve won Game 1.
“It seemed like we had a lucky night, all the bounces went our way,” said Rangers forward Rick Nash, whose third-period power-play goal was his first of the postseason.
The Rangers, who erased a three-games-to-one deficit in their previous series against Pittsburgh, opened a 2-0 lead yesterday in Montreal’s Bell Centre on first-period goals by Martin St. Louis and Mats Zuccarello. Many of the Rangers players attended the wake for St. Louis’s mother the day before the game and will join their teammate at her funeral today.
“It’s been very emotional for our whole group, and he’s handled it in an incredible way that probably has helped our team come closer together,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of St. Louis.
While Rene Bourque pulled the Canadiens within 2-1 midway through the second period, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist turned aside the other nine shots he faced and the visitors pushed their advantage to 4-1 on goals by Chris Kreider and Brad Richards. Lundqvist had been 0-3-1 and allowed 16 goals in his previous four games in Montreal.
Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Nash all scored on the power play in the opening five minutes of the third period as New York built a 7-1 lead. Lars Eller scored the final goal for Montreal. McDonagh added three assists, becoming the first Rangers’ defenseman to collect four points in a postseason game since Brian Leetch in Game 4 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals.
“We got a great start here and a good win,” Lundqvist said. “But it’s about doing it again in the next one. We haven’t won that many games in this building, so it’s good to get a great start and know that when we pay attention to all the details, that we can get the result we want.”
The Rangers scored seven goals in a playoff game for the first time since a 7-0 win against Atlanta on April 17, 2007. They’d last scored seven goals in a road playoff game in 1995 at Quebec and hadn’t gotten goals from seven different players since April 9, 1983 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Canadiens suffered their worst playoff loss since an 8-2 defeat against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2002. Montreal coach Michel Therrien said his team wasn’t prepared mentally or physically for yesterday’s game after rallying to win a seven-game series against a Boston Bruins team that had the best record in the NHL this season.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win this hockey game,” Therrien told reporters. “So we’re going to regroup and make sure next game that we’re going to compete a lot harder and be more alert.”