MONTREAL (AP) — Henrik Lundqvist got over his troubles with the Montreal Canadiens in a hurry.
The New York goalie survived a shaky first period to make 31 saves in the Rangers’ 2-0 victory Wednesday night in their playoff opener.
It will be up to the Canadiens to come up with an answer in Game 2 on Friday night at Bell Centre, or risk heading to New York down two games in the best-of-seven series.
“We didn’t put out there that Hank is going to have a hard time here,” New York coach Alain Vigneault said. “We’ve always had a lot of confidence in his game and what he did tonight was what we expected.”
Montreal went 3-0-0 against Lundqvist and the Rangers in the regular season, continuing the trend of the last two seasons in which Carey Price has shone against the Blueshirts while Lundqvist has labored. But the same may not apply in the postseason.
When New York knocked off the Canadiens in six games in 2014, a series in which Price was injured in the opening game, Lundqvist was pulled for Game 5, but bounced back with a Game 6 shutout. His clean sheet in the opener put him in the career lead among active NHL goalies with 10.
“We know Hank’s going to bring it,” Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. “His focus and determination really fed to the rest of the team.”
Tanner Glass scored in the first period. Montreal pulled Price late in the third, but Michael Grabner settled the issue with an empty-net goal with 1:10 left.
Montreal outshot New York 16-5 in the first period, but couldn’t beat Lundqvist.
Fired up by 1960s pop star Ginette Reno’s national anthem, the Canadiens were all over New York in the opening period, but it was the Rangers who struck first 9:50 on only their third shot.
Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec won a draw in his own zone, but fourth-line winger Glass pounced on it and lifted a backhand from the slot over Price’s shoulder.
“Certainly a goal helped to settle us down and get back to the focus and making the plays we needed to make,” McDonagh said. “A great play by (Glass). It’s just working hard. It’s great to see him get rewarded there.”
Montreal coach Claude Julien wants to make “little adjustments” for Game 2.
“We can definitely get better in the board battles,” Julien said. “Little details here and there made the difference. We had some chances in the first and came out of it down 1-0 when you should have been up. That’s what happens in the playoffs. What you need to do is keep your composure. You face adversity along the way, you regroup and go back to work.”
New York turned the tables in the first half of the second frame, but Price held Montreal in the game. The Rangers had a two-man advantage late in the period but couldn’t get a second goal.
But neither could the Canadiens, who had some clean chances but were up against a New York defense that did a good job of limiting rebounds.
“It was more about finish,” Julien said. “We had some good looks. There were loose pucks there. It’s about winning those little battles for loose pucks and making sure you pounce on them and finish it off.”
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