This one was one to point to. Playing for the first time since Wednesday due to the cancellation of the Sabres game, the Rangers handled the Canadiens with ease winning 5-0 at MSG. Their second straight win was a repeat in one aspect. It was another shutout. Probably the easiest of Henrik Lundqvist’s career. He only needed 21 saves against a road weary opponent who played the night before defeating the Bruins.
Bottom line. They did what they had to taking full advantage of a tired team who started their backup. Dustin Tokarski couldn’t duplicate his performance in the Conference Final getting lit up for five goals on 34 shots. The first couple were bad. Especially allowing a rebound off a routine Tanner Glass shot that Dominic Moore stuffed in for his first this season. As stunning as that was, both Glass and Jesper Fast picked up assists for their first points. That’ll silence the Glass detractors for the time being.
It wasn’t a perfect start. There were a couple of misplays that led to Montreal chances but Lundqvist stifled them with 11 saves in the first period. One of those came on a John Moore giveaway that nearly allowed Brandon Prust to capitalize. Dan Girardi got very lucky with his customary sliding block. He really shouldn’t do it as it takes him out of position. If the pass gets through, it’s a tap in for Prust.
Lundqvist also was an adventure twice coming out of his net. The first sequence saw him give away the puck and then scramble back. I tweeted that he should be velcro’d to the net. The second instance was much more dangerous. Following a Carl Hagelin goal that put it out of reach, he wandered out to play a puck only to get nailed by Prust, who tried to stop. However, his momentum sent Lundqvist flying leading to Kevin Klein challenging Prust. Another great quality even if Klein bit off more than he could chew. Finally, a defenseman willing to step up.
Once the first concluded, so did the Habs’ chances. The long change in the second doomed them. As if to make a point, Marty St. Louis made a brilliant backhand feed to Derek Stepan, who wristed home his second only 35 seconds in. It literally was a fastball by St. Louis. Just amazing skill from a future Hall Of Famer. He had a wonderful night also scoring a beauty later in the period that increased the Ranger lead to 3-0. St. Louis stripped the puck from a Canadien and broke in and beat Tokarski easily for his eighth. They gave assists to Chris Kreider and John Moore. Kreider had a pair of helpers and had his best game in a while shooting the puck. Tokarski denied him twice.
The Rangers dominated for long stretches. Following 11 shots in the first, the Canadiens only totaled 10 the rest of the match. They really were lethargic and didn’t have their legs. The result was predictable. Sadly, Tokarski was left to fend for himself. He actually made some good saves off point blank chances. Otherwise, it could’ve been uglier.
A bright spot was the play of Anthony Duclair. The 19-year old rookie was active throughout and finally got rewarded. During a strong shift with linemates Kevin Hayes and Hagelin, he set up the Rangers’ fourth goal. Hayes came out with the puck from behind the net and passed for Duclair, who passed in front for a Hagelin finish. It was his fifth. He’s quietly played well despite working with first-year players. A credit to how hard he works. As for Duclair, he also went back at P.K. Subban earning matching slashes following a collision with Tokarski. The kid is feisty.
Throughout, I sat next to three Canadiens fans in the last row of Section 419. I counted seven in our section. Even though their team was outclassed, they stayed and continued showing support. I had a nice dialogue with my Habs contingent on the game, Subban and Prust. One thing about Montreal fans, they are as diehard as it gets. I loved seeing one fan draped in a classic maroon red Canadien flag. Their enthusiasm was a bright spot on an otherwise bad game. Sure. The Rangers won. But it wasn’t competitive. As one fan remarked next to me, “At least lose with dignity.”
For the Rangers, they did what they had to and have outscored opponents 7-0 during the two wins. The next one is a little tougher with a visit to Tampa on Turkey Eve. They owe them one following that no show in Ryan Callahan’s return. Below is a classic scene from Major League II. Win that one and that’s called a winning streak. It has happened before.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Kevin Klein, NYR (4 hits, fight, +3 in 21 shifts-15:39)
2nd Star-Chris Kreider, NYR (2 assists, team-leading 7 SOG, 5 hits, +2 in 16:06)
1st Star-Marty St. Louis, NYR (8th of season, assist, +2 in 16:37)