Rangers roll over Canadiens in conference final opener

New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider (20) scores on Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price during...

New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider (20) scores on Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final Saturday at the Bell Centre. ( Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:02 PM ET

MONTREAL - Forget the joyful ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ chant.

The Canadiens 0-laid an egg Saturday afternoon.

With Carey Price on the bench for the third period after giving up four goals on 20 shots and possibly hurt, the New York Rangers put three power-play strikes past Peter Budaj and shocked the Bell Centre with a 7-2 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.

Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash had the finishing goals after New York hustled its way to a 2-0 first-period lead. Both teams were coming off emotional Game 7 road wins against higher-ranked foes.

Price appeared shaken up after Chris Kreider crashed into him on one of the many breaks the swift Rangers forward and his pals enjoyed on a flat-footed Habs’ defence. Replays showed Price’s ankle bending awkwardly, but it was not immediately clear if coach Michel Therrien was simply playing it safe for Game 2 Monday night with his team already down three goals.

The Canadiens couldn’t say they weren’t motivated with the sellout crowd of towel wavers, amped up by the pre-game torch passing ceremony, clips of the Boston series win and Ginette Reno’s powerful O Canada.

But the Rangers were not going to sit back. In fact their aggressive play and back-hand pass creativity in the trapezoid area behind Price led to goals two minutes apart.

Dominic Moore was the catalyst on both, while the Rangers re-organized with Derick Brassard hurt on an early Mike Weaver hit. Moore gave Martin St. Louis an empty net at 4:35 and less than two minutes later, started the play that Mats Zuccarello finished off. Zuccarello, the ‘Norwegian Hobbit’, scored on his country’s national holiday.

It was the first time the Rangers have scored two goals at the Bell Centre since a 3-2 loss on Jan. 15, 2011, followed by a dramatic dip to two in the next seven.

Price and the Canadiens closed ranks to kill back-to-back Rene Bourque minors before the first period ended and then came back out with the needed push. Then it was Henrik Lundqvist’s turn with sharp saves on odd-man rushes, including a near end-to-end by P.K. Subban and snares on Max Pacioretty and Brandon Prust.

Bourque atoned when he and and McDonagh both went for a puck that knuckleballed on Lundqvist. The latter had an awful career record at the Bell Centre in the regular season.

But the Rangers finished the second with two late goals -- Kreider continuing to use his wheels to get a partial breakaway and Zuccarello’s drop pass to Brad Richards from behind the net with Price’s eyes glued on the former.

Prust, among other Habs, couldn't keep his head and was in the box as the Rangers increased their lead. A late Lars Eller martker avoided the first six-goal playoff loss by Montreal since 2002, when Carolina beat them 8-2. But if the Habs needed a better historical footnote, they dropped Game 1 of the 1979 Cup final to the Rangers, then rallied to take four straight.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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