Rangers grab 2-0 lead
MONTREAL—The notion that Henrik Lundqvist can’t play at the Bell Centre has been officially dispelled.
The goalie called King Henrik made 40 saves as the N.Y. Rangers took control of the Eastern Conference final with a 3-1 victory over the desperate Montreal Canadiens last night.
The Canadiens—missing star goalie Carey Price to injury—came out blazing in a bid to avenge a listless 7-2 thumping in the series-opener only to run into the Lundqvist wall.
“I thought we played well, and the only reason we lost was Lundqvist,” said Montreal coach Michel Therrien.
“He stole that game.”
There was concern that Lundqvist may have a mental block about playing in Montreal as a string of weak outings at the Bell Centre had moved successive coaches John Tortorella and the current Alain Vigneault to not even play him there.
He hadn’t started a game in Montreal in more than two years.
But the goalie 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 6:14 in from Max Pacioretty, but Ryan McDonagh tied it only 17 seconds later on a shot that went in off defenceman 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,” noted Lundqvist.
“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,” he added.
Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis also scored on Dustin Tokarski—the surprise starter for Montreal ahead of regular back-up Peter Budaj.
Tokarski looked shaky at times but had no chance on two of the three Rangers’ goals.
The Canadiens had announced yesterday morning that Price—the Olympic gold-medallist who hurt his right knee in the series-opener when he was crashed into by Chris Kreider—would miss the rest of the series.
They hope to have him back if they reach the Stanley Cup final, but their situation looks bleak heading to New York.
“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.”
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, Sask. has a Memorial Cup, a world junior championship, and an AHL title on his résumé.
“He’s a winner,” said Therrien. “I thought he played well.
“We talked to Peter and he reacted as a pro. He’s a good teammate.”
A grinning 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.
“Hockey’s a small world.”
But in the end, he agreed that Lundqvist was the difference in the game.
“He’s the only reason we were still in the game,” Vigneault stressed. “They had total control of the pressure.
“A lucky bounce changed the dynamics of the game.”
Montreal outshot New York 41-30.