‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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The road warrior Rangers quieted the usual deafening noise of Bell Centre. They took the home fans out of the game early when Martin St. Louis scored at 4:35 into Game 1. From that point on, the rabid Habs fans were stunned and silenced.
“It’s a pretty dangerous building,” St. Louis said. “Once they start feeding off that, you can feel the energy, and we were able to just score a quick goal to make it 3-1, getting a two-goal lead, and obviously the fourth one is a big one to end the period to extend the lead. I thought we managed well in the third.”
The Rangers chased Carey Price after scoring four goals in two periods, as Peter Budaj replaced Price at the start of the third period. Budaj didn’t fare any better as an onslaught of goals continued. The Rangers eventually won Game 1 by a lopsided score of 7-2.
Rangers winger Chris Kreider collided with Price at 3:15 of the second period. Price favored his right knee after the incident.
“I think it was accidental, honestly,” Montreal head coach Michel Therrien said. “The fact that he didn’t play in the third period, that was more to protect him than anything, because we were not sharp in front of him.”
There are some concerns over Price’s knee, as he gave up a pair of goals in the final 1:01 of the second period. As long as the knee injury isn’t anything major, expect Price to start Game 2.
There were plenty of candidates for the top star in Game 1. Henrik Lundqvist was at his sensational best, saving 20 of 22 shots. Lundqvist erased any doubts of his ability to perform at Bell Centre. He notably made a vital 2-on-1 save on ex-Ranger Brandon Prust with 1:30 remaining in the second period while the Rangers were clinging to a 2-1 lead. Kreider and Brad Richards went on to score goals in rapid succession moments later, as the Rangers exited the ice at the second intermission with a 4-1 advantage.
Before Saturday’s victory, Lundqvist last earned a victory at Bell Centre on March 17, 2009.
“We got a great start here and a good win,” Lundqvist said. “But it’s about doing it again in the next one. But obviously, 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.”
Chris Kreider tormented the Habs with his incredible wheels and constantly crashed the net. Mats Zuccarello worked his magic, demonstrating his ridiculous hockey IQ with a one-goal and two-assist performance. Dom Moore produced a splendid showing after stepping to the void left on the Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello line after Brassard exited early due to injury.
Eleven different Rangers were able to register a point in Game 1, yet if there’s one player who stood out more than any other, it was key defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
MCDONAGH HAUNTS HABS FANS
McDonagh probably isn’t 100 percent healthy. Imagine what he’d be if he were at full health. The guy was an absolute monster in all areas of the ice in Game 1. McDonagh contributed one goal and three assists in the series opener.
Rangers fans owe a debt of gratitude to former Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey for somehow parting with McDonagh in the one-sided deal that sent Scott Gomez and his albatross contract to Montreal.
Gomez has since been bought out, and none of the other pieces acquired in the trade worked out for the Canadiens. The only thing that remains for Habs fans is the pain of seeing McDonagh skating across the ice in a Rangers sweater as a constant reminder of one of the worst trades in franchise history.
McDonagh swallowed Montreal’s top forwards throughout Game 1. He uncorked an absolute rocket on the power play, increasing the Rangers’ lead to 5-1 in the third period. It was the kind of blast that P.K. Subban would be proud to call his own.
No one is questioning Montreal defenseman Subban’s offensive aptitude. Subban packs one of the hardest shots in the league and can rush up the ice with rapid acceleration. Yet, McDonagh is clearly the more complete defenseman. Subban does things with flash and bravado, while McDonagh quietly goes about his business of dominating in an effective, no-nonsense manner.
McDonagh’s game isn’t nearly as flashy as Subban, but he will prove all series long why the Canadiens’ organization regrets the day they sent McDonagh to the Big Apple.
BRASSARD INJURED, DOM MOORE STEPS UP
Center Derick Brassard only played for 35 seconds in Game 1. Brassard received an upper body check from Mike Weaver and did not return. Rangers head athletic trainer Jim Ramsey worked on Brassard’s back on the bench, but Brassard eventually skated to the locker room and missed the remainder of Game 1.
Vigneault said that Brassard is “day to day” following the game. He did not go into further detail.
Fourth line center Dominic Moore took the place of Brassard, centering Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot. Moore contributed two silky assists in the first seven minutes of Game 1. The experienced center is capable of playing on either a scoring line or checking line.
Vigneault praised Moore’s ability to step into the Brassard’s role. Brassard was only able to take two shifts for Brassard after Brassard was only able to take two shifts.
“He did an unbelievable job,” Vigneault said. “To lose Brass right away on his second shift put our rotation and our lines out of whack a little bit.”
It’s a wait-and-see situation for Brassard ahead of Game 2 on Monday.
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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