Montreal Canadiens Zap Powerless New York Rangers 3-1

By Harry Dole
Brandon Prust sets up Alex Galchenyuk for game winning goal against Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.  Debby Wong – USA TODAY SPORTS

The first shot of this listless game was not recorded until 8:23 into the first period, when the New York Rangers Carl Hagelin dumped a harmless shot towards Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who tucked the puck away into his glove for an easy save. With the Rangers missing Rick Nash and the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher shelved due to injury, one would have expected a bit less offense in this matchup. However, this appeared to be more of a full scale power outage for both teams.

It took the Canadiens more than 16 minutes into the game to get their first shot on goal by Brandon Prust, a wrap around that was denied by Henrik Lundqvist. The uneventful initial period ended scoreless, with the Rangers outshooting the Habs 5-3 on mostly low percentage, long distance shots.

The first stanza was definitely not destined for either teams’ highlight reel because it emitted as much intensity as a meaningless scrimmage. There is nothing like the dreaded neutral zone trap to turn a normally exciting sport into an insomniac’s dream. An extra strong espresso shot would be required to ward off the symptoms of narcolepsy.

A highly anticipated second period began much the same way as the first: with very few opportunities for either team from down low or from the slot. Habs defenseman P.K. Subban uncoiled a rising slapshot from the right point that caromed off of Lundqvist’s right shoulder. The blast appeared to have stung the Rangers netminder, who was able to shrug it off and remain in the game.

New York broke the scoreless tie when Anton Stralman knocked in his own rebound past Price. The Canadiens defensive zone play appeared disoriented on the play and left Stralman all alone in front of Price for what seemed to be an eternity. The goal was set up by Derek Stepan and Hagelin.

With 1:15 remaining in the second period, Max Pacioretty blasted the equalizer from the slot past a screened Lundqvist. The play originated on what appeared to be an iced puck touched up by Michael Del Zotto. For reasons unknown, the official waved off what should have been an obvious icing call.

The perfectly placed missile by Pacioretty accounted for his second goal of the season and second in two games. Josh Georges and David Desharnais earned assists setting up the goal. The second period ended tied 1-1, with the Rangers outshooting the Canadiens 15-10. Although the Rangers outplayed the Canadiens for two periods, the Habs managed to hang around dangerously.

That danger would soon become a reality for the Rangers as Montreal rookie Alex Galchenyuk notched the go-ahead goal just 1:48 into the third period. The cross ice pass in front of Lundqvist was set up by Prust, who must have been more than happy to exact some revenge on his old coach and employer. Lars Eller also hit the scoresheet with an assist on the play, which originated from an odd man rush.

The Rangers came close on two occasions to tie the game during the third period, but failed to do so when Tomas Plekanec and a goal post ended up standing in their way. You get the feeling that the Canadiens came into town to not only steal the game, but the show as well.

The Canadiens saved their best for last, while the Rangers seemed to save their worst. New York had one final golden opportunity when Plekanec was called on a tripping penalty with just over three minutes remaining in the game.  After failing to show any life during the first part of the man advantage, Rangers coach John Tortorella decided to pull Lundqvist with 43 seconds remaining on the power play to create a six-on-four advantage.

The Rangers went on to graphically display why they have the most pathetic power play in the league by allowing a shorthanded empty net goal, which traveled nearly the length of the ice, to Montreal defenseman Raphael Diaz. The Broadway Blues handled the puck during the two man advantage like it was a hot potato.

That makes two very long goals in two days for the Habs, who have now won five consecutive games. As for the Rangers, they hope they will not have to wait too long for their best player, Nash, to return from injury. Without Nash, New York appeared powerless and lifeless for the majority of the game.

Overall, it was an ugly and uninspiring game with some questionable officiating, something which has become a staple of this season. It remains to be seen when and if the on-ice product will start showing any improvement.

After stealing the show on Broadway, Montreal returns home to the Bell Centre for a tilt against the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Twitter: @HarrisDole

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