Lundqvist, Rangers blank Habs for first win
NEW YORK -- In last year’s playoffs, the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens played a low-scoring first-round series that was won by the Rangers in six games.
Unfortunately for the Canadiens, the teams picked up right where they left off Sunday night.
Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves as the Rangers earned their first win of the season by defeating the Canadiens 2-0 at Madison Square Garden. It marked the fourth straight win by the Rangers over the Canadiens -- postseason included -- and New York has held Montreal to just four goals over that time.
Lundqvist had a horrible start to his 2017-18 season. After allowing three goals in a season-opening loss to the Colorado Avalanche, he gave up five goals in the first period against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and was pulled in favor of backup Ondrej Pavelec.
However, the 35-year-old veteran righted himself against the team he held to 11 goals in six postseason games last spring.
“That was a real good effort from the guys, especially (Lundqvist) coming in and bouncing back like he did,” said New York’s Mika Zibanejad, who scored his fourth goal of the season in the third period to create breathing room. “He gave us a great opportunity to win the game. We caught a few breaks there with the goals being overturned.”
The Canadiens appeared to score twice in the first period, but neither goal ultimately counted.
Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw was initially credited with a goal after a scramble around the net, but replay ruled the puck was kicked into the net. Later in the period, a Shea Weber blast found its way past Lundqvist, but officials decided Max Pacioretty interfered with Lundqvist before the puck crossed the line.
Just before the first period ended, defenseman Brady Skjei was credited with a goal after his pass bounced off Weber’s skate and past Montreal goalie Carey Price to give the Rangers their first lead of the season, one they would not relinquish.
“They were good calls,” said Pacioretty, the Canadiens’ captain. “Maybe if we disagreed with them, it’d be frustrating. We were getting the puck there, but ... it’s nice to look at the shot clock and have lots of shots, but I think Pittsburgh just proved last year winning the Cup that making plays, making the goalie move, making it hard on him is how you win games.”
The Canadiens outshot the Rangers 34-25 but rarely tested Lundqvist after the first period.
“It was a little bit sloppy early,” Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. “I thought we did a better job of not going after it and opening ourselves up too much where we’re giving them too many grade-A looks. (Lundqvist) made some saves, and we’re starting to find our feet and play a little better.”
The Canadiens (1-2-0) were also coming off a lopsided road loss Saturday, as the Capitals delivered a 6-1 drubbing that also ended Price’s night after the first period. Through three games, Montreal has just three goals.
“At the end of the day, same result, I guess,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said, referring to last year’s postseason series with the Rangers. “Lots of chances, but we need to find a way to finish a little bit better. I thought it was an improvement from our last game. The next step is finding ways to capitalize on those opportunities.”
The Rangers (1-2-0) avoided losing their first three games in regulation for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Lundqvist felt the game changed after the second disallowed goal, otherwise the Rangers might still be winless.
“I think everybody settled down a little bit,” Lundqvist said. “I feel like maybe everybody just took a deep breath and said, ‘All right, let’s play our game here and let’s not try to do too much.’ That goes for me as well. I try to just believe in my game. Believe in your game plane and when you stick to it and execute the way you should, we’ll be in good shape.”
NOTES: The Canadiens made two lineup changes, scratching RW Ales Hemsky and D Mark Streit and replacing them with RW Torrey Mitchell and D Brandon Davidson. ... This was the first of 11 back-to-back games for the Rangers this season, five fewer than they played last season. ... Rangers RW Jesper Fast, who is recovering from offseason hip surgery, could be back in the next two weeks. ... The Rangers scratched D Brendan Smith and C Filip Chytil. Smith signed a four-year, $17.4 million contract during the offseason. ... Rangers D Nick Holden and D Steven Kampfer made their season debuts.