Canadiens' Josh Gorges sits at the end of the bench late in the third period as he and his teammates were being soundly beaten by the New York Rangers in the first game of the Eastern Conference Final at the Bell Centre in Montrealon Saturday.
Photograph by: John Kenney, The Gazette
The Skinny: The Canadiens used their speed to beat the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference, but they were no match for the New York Rangers’ speed Saturday afternoon as the visitors raced to a 7-2 victory in the opening game of the Eastern Conference at the Bell Centre. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist didn’t have to work too hard to post his first win at the Bell Centre since 2009. He made 20 saves and most of those shots came from the outside. Carey Price, who was a standout in the first two rounds, didn’t get a lot of help from his defence and was pulled after giving up four goals on 20 shots in the first two periods.
Taking charge early: Scoring the first goal has been important in this playoff season and the Rangers took a 2-0 lead before the game was seven minutes old. Laval native Martin St. Louis opened the scoring at 4:35 when he found some room in front of Price and redirected a cross-ice pass from Dominic Moore. Mats Zuccarello made it 2-0 at 6:27 when the Rangers had lots of traffic in front of the net and Ryan McDonagh set up Zuccarello with blind pass between his legs.
Comeback aborted: The Canadiens cut the New York lead to one goal when Rene Bourque beat Lundqvist from the slot after being set up by Brian Gionta from behind the net at 12:38 of the second period, but the Rangers effectively put the game out of reach when they scored twice in a 50-second span at the end of the period. Chris Kreider took a pass from Rick Nash and beat Price on an odd-man rush at 18:59 and Brad Richards made it 4-1 at 19:48. Richards made big plays at both ends of the ice. He forced a turnover by knocking P.K. Subban off the puck in the neutral zone. Subban compounded his error on the subsequent rush when he chased Zuccarello behind the net and left Richards alone in the slot.
Power Rangers: Peter Budaj replaced Price at the start of the third period and found himself facing a string of power plays. McDonagh scored at 1:28, Derek Stepan scored at 4:11 with New York enjoying a two-man advantage and Nash notched his first goal of the playoffs at 4:36. The Rangers went 3-for-7 with the extra man while the Canadiens had three power plays and managed only four shots on net. Lars Eller scored a short-handed goal for the Canadiens at 15:22 of the third period.
What’s next: Game 2 will be played at the Bell Centre on Monday (8 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN-690 Radio) and the series will move to Madison Square Garden for the next two games Thursday and Sunday.
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