Canadiens fire blanks as Lundqvist, Rangers draw first blood in series
The bottom line: Form went out the window as New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist shut the door on the Canadiens in the opening game of their best-of-seven first-round Stanley Cup playoff series at the Bell Centre Wednesday night. Lundqvist made 31 saves as the Rangers skated to a 2-0 victory. Over the years, Lundqvist has struggled against the Canadiens, particularly at the Bell Centre, while Carey Price had dominated the Rangers. Price did his part, as he limited New York to one goal on 30 shots. Michael Grabner put the second Rangers goal into an empty net.
Lundqvist has a winning record against Montreal in the playoffs after posting a 4-2-0 record in the 2014 Eastern Conference final, a series that Price watched from the sidelines after he suffered a knee injury in Game 1. Lundqvist finished that series with a 1-0 win over the Canadiens, but that game was considerably easier because the Canadiens managed only 18 shots on goal. In this game, Lundqvist gave up numerous rebounds, but the Canadiens were unable to generate second chances.
Rangers open the scoring: The Canadiens dominated the first 10 minutes, but found themselves trailing 1-0 after Tanner Glass scored at 9:50. Glass picked up a loose puck after a faceoff in the Montreal zone and beat Price with a rising backhander over the goalie’s glove hand. The Canadiens outshot the Rangers 16-5, including a 3-1 advantage during a New York power play. Each team delivered 20 hits in the period, with Jordie Benn setting the tone early by flattening Glass.
Action from Game 1 of the Montreal Canadiens vs. N.Y. Rangers NHL Playoff series at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Wednesday April 12, 2017.
Missed opportunities: There was no scoring in the second period, but each team had chances. Montreal’s best chance came during a power play when Shea Weber pinched in on a backdoor play, but Lundqvist reacted to make the save. The Rangers came close to scoring a second goal 6:20 into the second period, but Brady Skjei’s shot from the blue line hit the post and Price stopped Mats Zuccarello on the rebound. New York also enjoyed a 5-0n-3 advantage for 58 seconds, but were unable to get a shot on goal. New York went 0-for-4 on the power play with four shots on goal, while the Montreal power play went 0-for-3 with four shots.
The Norwegian connection: With Zuccarello lining up for the Rangers, Andreas Martinsen said he thought this was the first time two Norwegian players have met in the playoffs.That’s a pretty good bet because they are among only seven players from Norway in the history of the NHL.
Julien gets in a dig: Canadiens coach Claude Julien and Rangers coach Alain Vigneault are old friends and were teammates with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles in the 1982-83 season. Julien said Vigneault was called up by the St. Louis Blues because he was a better defensive player. But Julien couldn’t resist a dig at his friend when he said: “I remember he wore size 6 skates and we teased him about that.”
Coming up: Game 2 in the series is set for the Bell Centre Friday (7 p.m., CBC, TVA Sports, TSN-690 Radio). The series moves to New York for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4 on Tuesday.