When Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara plastered Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty against a Bell Centre turnbuckle two seasons ago, not one Canadiens player stood up to Chara. In an ironic twist of fate, when Pacioretty left his skates and slammed New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s face into the glass last night, not one Rangers player came to McDonagh’s defense.
Rather symbolically, the Canadiens are rising as fast as Pacioretty flew off his skates to slam his upper body into McDonagh. As for the Rangers, they continue to fall due to poor play and injuries to several key players.
With star forward Rick Nash and defenseman Michael Del Zotto shelved due to injuries, the Rangers were already ailing coming into the game against the Habs. The Rangers managed to leave Montreal in even worse shape, losing blueliners McDonagh and Dan Girardi, who was struck on the ankle by a P.K. Subban rocket from the point late in the game. Subsequent x-rays to Girardi’s injured foot did not reveal any fractures.
The Rangers had played a rather spirited first period, until momentum shifted on a horrid interference penalty call on defenseman Marc Staal. While Staal was chasing the puck in the corner, Habs forward Tomas Plekanec stepped in his way, initiating the contact. In this series between the Habs and Rangers, incompetence has not been limited to the shoddy on-ice play.
The first meeting of these two teams last Tuesday at Madison Square Garden was also marred with an official’s blown non-icing call which directly led to a Canadiens goal. Even if the roles had been reversed and it had been the Rangers who had the officials in their pocket, they would have had difficulty winning this game. On this night, the Rangers would have had trouble defeating a Habs minor league affiliate.
Taking advantage of the sustained power play pressure from Staal’s penalty, Habs forward Erik Cole scored an unassisted goal from the lower left circle area just 1:20 into the second period. Cole intercepted a Rangers clearing attempt and was able to snap a wrist shot past Rangers backup goalie Martin Biron, who was giving starter Henrik Lundqvist a rest. After just a little over one period, the Rangers and their dismal offense were done for the evening.
The Canadiens would add insurance to their lead in the second period on goals by Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller to cement the 3-0 victory. Goalie Carey Price turned away 17 harmless shots from the Rangers to earn his second shutout of the season. As with Tuesday’s game, this was an all-around dreadful game to watch, with both teams combining for only 35 shots.
The newly formed line of Cole, Eller and Galchenyuk were responsible for all three Montreal goals. Cole scored his first goal in ten games. The Habs power play showed signs of life with Eller scoring with the extra man after some excellent puck movement. Pacioretty, a repeat offender, faces an NHL disciplinary hearing Sunday for his role in the McDonagh injury.
The first place Canadiens have won six of their last seven and are in Ottawa Monday evening to play the Senators, yet another team which has been decimated with injuries. Unlike the Rangers though, the Sens have continued to squeak out wins after losing their two best players.