MONTREAL (CBSNewYork/AP) — Henrik Lundqvist has the surging New York Rangers two wins from the Stanley Cup finals.
Lundqvist made 40 saves and the Rangers took control of the Eastern Conference final with a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.
“You’re trying right now to inspire each other, and personally, it’s a lot of fun to be out there,” Lundqvist said. “It’s exciting. It’s pressure.”
The Rangers lead the best-of-seven series 2-0 heading back to New York for Game 3 on Thursday and Game 4 on Sunday.
“I thought we played well, and the only reason we lost was Lundqvist,” Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. “He stole that game.”
The Canadiens, missing star goalie Carey Price because of an injury, came out strong in a bid to get past a 7-2 thumping in the series opener only to run into Lundqvist.
Lundqvist, who was bested by Price at the Sochi Olympics as Canada beat Sweden in the final, has allowed only three goals on 63 shots in the series.
The Canadiens got the opening goal at 6:14 of the first from Max Pacioretty, but Ryan McDonagh tied it 17 seconds later on a shot that went in off defenseman Josh Gorges and a post.
“We knew they were going to come hard, but we put ourselves in a tough spot there by not getting pucks out,” Lundqvist said. “They were all over us.
“But to tie it up quickly like that, I think that was important to kind of even out the momentum a little bit.”
Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis also scored on Dustin Tokarski, the surprise starter for Montreal ahead of regular backup Peter Budaj.
St. Louis scored a day after he and his teammates attended the funeral of his mother, who died just before Mother’s Day. The Rangers have rallied around the grieving veteran and have won five in a row since her death.
“It’s been an emotional weekend,” St. Louis said. “I’ll definitely never forget this weekend for many reasons, but I think the grieving process will still take a while.
“But that stuff is behind me. Tonight, we wanted to make sure we’d have the emotion we’d need to win this game because we knew they would come out hard, especially rallying, losing their best player, so I thought we answered.”
Tokarski looked shaky at times, but had no chance on two of the Rangers’ goals.
“It was a lot of fun,” Tokarski said after his first NHL playoff start. “There was a lot of adrenaline. You grow up as a kid wanting to play in the playoffs, and I got the opportunity and just came up a bit short.”
The Canadiens had announced Monday morning that Price, the Olympic gold medalist who hurt his right knee in the series opener when he was crashed into by Chris Kreider, would miss the rest of the series.
Therrien said he opted for Tokarski over Budaj because of the youngster’s record of winning championships at other levels.
The 24-year-old from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, has a Memorial Cup, a world junior championship and an AHL title on his resume.
“He’s a winner,” Therrien said. “I thought he played well. We talked to Peter and he reacted as a pro. He’s a good teammate.”
New York coach Alain Vigneault said Montreal’s goalie choice was no surprise.
“Somehow, we had an inkling (Sunday) night that it was probably going to be that gentleman (Tokarski),” Vigneault said with a grin. “Hockey’s a small world.”
In the end, Vigneault agreed that Lundqvist was the difference in the game.
“He’s the only reason we were still in the game,” he said. “They had total control of the pressure.”
Montreal outshot New York 41-30.
Montreal’s worst fears were realized in the first period, which it dominated while still falling behind 2-1.
A long period of sustained pressure produced the first goal as Lundqvist’s clearing attempt went off Pacioretty and into the net at 6:14.
But only 17 seconds later, McDonagh swiped a puck toward the net from the point and saw it go in off Gorges’ leg and a post. McDonagh had a goal and an assist to give the defenseman six points in the opening two games of the series.
“The Canadiens were coming wave after wave in the first period,” St. Louis said. “If it wasn’t for Lundqvist, there might have been a different result after the first.”
The Rangers played a thorough defensive game in the third to prevent a comeback.
NOTES: Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk returned from an injury to see his first playoff action for Montreal, replacing Michael Bournival. He got 13:23 of ice time. … New York forward Derick Brassard, who suffered a suspected shoulder injury in Game 1, was replaced by Dan Carcillo. … Price was photographed at the Bell Centre with a brace on his right knee. … Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended the game.
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