Rangers take series lead on Zibanejad OT goal in Montreal
MONTREAL -- Caught on the losing end of the overtime game-winning goal battle in Game 2, Mika Zibanejad exacted a bit of revenge.
Chris Kreider streaked down the left wing and flung a pass through the slot to Zibanejad, who ripped a one-timer past Carey Price to send the New York Rangers to a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
“I felt like I got a little bit of revenge from the last overtime here and even last game, I felt our line was coming together,” said Zibanejad, who scored his first goal of the series. “It was a nice way to end this game but we’ve got a job to do with our home game here and try to end the series.”
The Rangers now lead the series 3-2 with a chance to clinch on Saturday night in New York.
“Tied in the series, playing Game 5, we know how important it is,” Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher said. “But that said, we’re going into a situation here where we’re going to learn a lot about our group, we’re going to learn what type of character we have. If you don’t have character, this is the time where you’re going to doubt yourself; when you have character, this is the time where the belief is going to come out of your group.”
Price stopped 33 shots for the Canadiens. Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves for New York.
Artturi Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher scored in regulation for Montreal. Jesper Fast and Brady Skjei replied for the Rangers.
Lehkonen’s second of the playoffs opened the scoring at 12:07 of the first period. After Nathan Beaulieu’s point shot hit the rookie and Lundqvist saved Lehkonen’s first shot attempt, the young Finn outmuscled Marc Staal behind the net and tucked the rebound in on a wraparound.
Fast evened it up with a short-handed tally at 15:56. Zibanejad cut into the middle before feeding Fast, who beat Price between the legs.
But Gallagher got the crowd roaring again less than 30 seconds later on the same power play. Andrei Markov sent a perfect backhand pass to the winger in the high slot and Gallagher had plenty of time before firing one past Lundqvist.
The Canadiens, who struggled in the second period in this series, were on their game for the first half of the middle frame, helped by a couple of back-to-back power plays early on. Montreal held an 8-3 edge in shots on goal in the period before the midpoint but couldn’t get anything by Lundqvist.
“There were opportunities to close out the game and (Lundqvist) made some big saves,” Max Pacioretty said. “They got a bounce on that goal but nothing we can do about it now. We have an opportunity now to show what we have in this room. We’ve come back a lot this year and hopefully we can do it in this series as well.”
New York picked it up in the second half of the period and was rewarded at 18:28. Rick Nash curled in from the corner and Skjei picked up the rebound and shot through Shea Weber’s legs into an open side of the net.
“We got a little loose in our play and they took advantage,” Gallagher said. “They have enough skilled forwards over there with a lot of speed and when you turn pucks over ... they’re going to take advantage of that.”
The Rangers picked up where they left off to start the third, getting the first four shots while Montreal didn’t get its first until just past the halfway mark of the period.
The Canadiens had chances to take the lead when Phillip Danault hit the crossbar short-handed and Pacioretty was denied by Lundqvist on a breakaway.
“That’s playoff hockey,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Momentum changes and then it changes again. Lundqvist’s save on Pacioretty, momentum changes. It inspires our players, gives them confidence. When you have (momentum) you hope to keep it and when you don‘t, you hope to find it as quickly as possible.”
NOTES: Montreal D Alexei Emelin suited up for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury on April 5. ... The Canadiens scratched C/W Brian Flynn, RW Michael McCarron, LW Andreas Martinsen, D Brandon Davidson and D Nikita Nesterov. ... The Rangers scratched LW Matt Puempel, LW Tanner Glass, C Brandon Pirri, D Adam Clendening, D Kevin Klein and D Steven Kampfer.