It was an up-and-down night at the Garden for the Rangers, and in the end the Rangers ended up on the downside, falling 2-1 to the Montreal Canadiens. Here's how it all went down:
The Rangers dominated play early, controlling the puck for long stretches in the Montreal zone and generating several scoring chances while the Canadiens D spun into the ice. But the Rangers could never pull away with a second goal and, after earning their first power play, never looked that good again in the first 40 minutes. The Habs still mustered very little in the way of scoring opportunities, but New York was no longer dominating play and with under two minutes to play in the second period, it finally cost the Rangers when the Habs got on the board. More on that below.
Just seconds after new acquisition Wojtek Wolski nearly notched his first goal on Broadway, Brandon Dubinsky raced down the right wing boards, blew past a hulking-but-helpless Hal Gill, cut across the crease and roofed the puck over the blocker of Alex Auld, who was filling in for all-star Carey Price. Matt Gilroy picked up an assist, as did Henrik Lundqvist, the goalie’s fourth helper of the season and ninth of his career.
It’s early, but Wolski acquitted himself well in the first period. Marian Gaborik set up his newest linemate at the four-minute mark for a hip-high shot off the rush, but it was stopped by Auld. About three minutes later, Wolski combined with Gaborik for another great scoring opportunity, with Gaborik pulling the trigger this time. That too was denied, but Wolski didn’t quit there and finished a check against the Habs’ Lars Eller along the left boards before skating to the Ranger bench. Wolski nearly made a grand debut with a game-tying goal with two minutes remaining in the third, but Auld barely knocked it down with his right arm and no Ranger could deposit the loose puck as it trickled through the crease. With 40 seconds to go Auld nicked another Wolski shot with his skate to spoil the winger's Ranger debut and give the Habs the win.
Messin’ With Their Heads
With four minutes left in the first Brian Boyle absolutely hounded hot-headed P.K. Subban on the forecheck forcing the D-man behind his net and then giving him a little love tap after Subban passed the puck away. Subban retaliated by crosschecking Boyle across his chest, earning the Rangers a power play. It was short lived though as Marc Staal was forced to take an interference penalty to stop a Montreal breakaway after a bad Ranger turnover at the top of the Habs’ zone. At least the theory was sound.
The Other PK
The Ranger kill looked strong on its first and only full-length appearance, successfully working off a Dan Girardi holding penalty in the second. The Blueshirts were helped by a nice blocked shot low in the zone by Michael Sauer and even broke out for an odd-man rush midway through following a takeaway by Ruslan Fedotenko.
Head Coach John Tortorella switched up his line combinations in the second period (shocking, I know), trying out both Derek Stepan and Dubinsky between Gaborik and Wolski. The latter combination produced a ton of pressure midway through the period, resulting in scoring chances for both Gaborik and Dubinsky during the shift.
Yes, the game featured former Ranger Scott Gomez and former Devil Brian Gionta, but it also returned James Wisniewski, late of the Islanders, to New York. You may remember Wisniewski and Sean Avery had an interesting conversation via pantomime earlier this season. There were no gloves dropped or other noticeable gestures but Avery seemed to be flying tonight. He buzzed around the net and had several stuff attempts in addition to a few nice setups for his teammates. Of course it was Wisniewski who wound up on the score sheet with an assist on the Habs' second goal.
Henrik Lundqvist’s shutout bid was denied late in the second when Jaroslav Spacek scored on a fluky play. It looked like Lundqvist had stopped the puck, but Brian Boyle and a Canadiens player pushed the Ranger goalie into the net and the puck over the line. After a (very) brief review, the goal stood and the game was tied at one.
The Final 20
It was almost a horrific start to the period for the Rangers as Lundqvist was forced to make a clutch save to stave off a Canadiens goal in the first 30 seconds. Things settled down after that until five minutes in when Lundqvist slammed the door shut on Gionta from point blank range. The Rangers looked like they'd caught a big break until Benoit Pouliot raced down the left boards and sniped a wrister over Lunqvist's shoulder from the left faceoff dot for the go-ahead goal.