Who would’ve had this for a script? A Game 1 win for the Rangers and Tanner Glass played the hero. It’s true. It’s true. Indeed, Glass scored the only goal they needed in a 2-0 shutout of the Canadiens at the House of Horrors in Bell Centre to take Game 1. Henrik Lundqvist did the rest stopping all 31 shots for his 10th career playoff shutout and 56th postseason win.
In a much anticipated battle of goalies, Lundqvist got the better of Carey Price by stoning the Canadiens. His biggest save came on Shea Weber during a Montreal power play. On the play, Alex Radulov skated into open space and made a perfect cross pass to an open Weber, who had the top corner picked. However, Lundqvist made a remarkable leaping glove save to commit robbery in Canada. That was the save of the game.
Glass opened the scoring following some very physical play from both sides. As expected, the Habs were hitting everything. The Rangers didn’t back down going right back at them without retaliating. In fact, the teams combined for 40 hits in the first period. It was a better period for Montreal territorially. They came at the Rangers with physical play and got most of the shots holding a 16-5 edge. But weren’t able to get to Lundqvist.
With Lundqvist holding them in, they withstood the predictable Montreal onslaught. On a night where Glass got the start over Pavel Buchnevich playing with Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast, he showed why. The energetic role player was terrific. It might’ve been his best game as a Ranger. He, Lindberg and Fast were easily their most effective forechecking line. The cohesive trio were physically engaged and created problems for Montreal.
The Glass goal was one that surprised Price. It came innocently enough off a face-off. On a Lindberg win to Glass, he simply fired a quick backhand top shelf over a shell shocked Price for a 1-0 lead at 9:50. Fast might’ve helped by going to the net possibly distracting Price’s vision. But it was a bad goal on a shot you would expect him to stop. Considering how brilliant he was in the second and third, it was surprising.
It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. Glass just plays hard every shift. He has been a lot more consistent since his recall on the cycle. He’s also been coming back defensively and getting pucks out. Something he successfully did on one key shift to help protect the lead in the third. Maybe Alain Vigneault’s decision was the right one. For one night, I didn’t see any tweets about Pavel Buchnevich. Full credit to Glass, who played well along with Lindberg and Fast. That whole line dominated.
When it got late, Vigneault wisely took Glass off the line and replaced him with Michael Grabner. A smart move. Grabner was out late when Claude Julien pulled Price for an extra attacker. He didn’t have a particularly good game, turning over a puck with a pass up the middle that could’ve been trouble. But Grabner was Johnny on the spot taking a Fast feed and scoring into an empty net with 1:10 remaining to ice it.
Another key Blueshirt who had a strong game was veteran Dan Girardi. Playing with captain Ryan McDonagh as the top pair against Montreal’s best scoring line, he was superb. Playing physical and delivering five big hits including a thunderous one on Max Pacioretty that banged him up. He also blocked four shots. Most notably, he got in the path of an Alex Galchenyuk that had no chance. It went wide to Fast, who skated it out to Grabner for his goal.
The McDonagh-Girardi tandem was excellent. Brendan Smith also had a good defensive game paired with Brady Skjei. When McDonagh was off for a penalty, Vigneault wisely used Smith with Girardi for a big penalty killing shift. Girardi led all Ranger penalty killers with 3:17 of ice-time. They successfully killed off three Montreal power plays including an abbreviated five-on-three. Mika Zibanejad won a big draw leading to a clear. He was good all night on face-offs going 8-and-7.
The start of the game was pure adrenaline. The Canadiens came out finishing checks. The game plan was clear enough. They tried to get the Rangers to bite. But they didn’t. They took the hits and hit back. They also used Montreal’s over aggressiveness against them. Brendan Gallagher tripped up Marc Staal behind the Ranger net. Then when it was called, he immediately went towards Staal trying to goad him into a retaliatory penalty. He wasn’t buying. It wasn’t the only bad penalty Gallagher took.
Montreal had to be frustrated with not scoring in a first they controlled. Instead, they were down a goal thanks to Glass off a simple face-off play. One thing about the Rangers. They do have a lot of set plays off the draws they win. They did fine in that category going even with the Canadiens 28-28. That in itself was a positive development.
Another one was the Rangers’ ability to respond. They didn’t play the best first. But it was a good road period due to drawing first blood and getting out of it unscathed. They were much better in the second. Looking to make plays, they used their speed finally to create a more consistent cycle and generate quality shots and chances on Price. But he was stopping everything. At one point, it was so lopsided that the Bell Centre collectively groaned.
With over five minutes left and the game still one goal, a Nick Holden turnover led to the Habs’ best play at five-on-five. They pinned Holden and Staal in along with the fourth line. They nearly tied it. After a clear that allowed them to change the forwards, Holden and Staal remained out. Eventually, J.T. Miller was forced into a delay of game minor.
That’s where Lundqvist came up huge with the remarkable glove save to deny Weber. But another undisciplined Montreal penalty with Galchenyuk nabbed for a rare “face-off violation” ended the power play 58 seconds in. It was the right call. Just one we haven’t seen all year.
Despite coming on and closing the shots to 13-9 in the second, the Habs still had nothing to show for it. They were being shutout on home ice. Up till that point, Lundqvist had stopped all 25 shots sent his way. It was clear he was seeing the puck well. This is the proven goalie he’s always been. Even with so many lingering questions entering. He’s 35 now and knows how precious these moments are. He looked very focused when speaking to MSG’s John Giannone in the post game, indicating that he felt good the last couple of games.
When the teams weren’t testing the goalies, they were at each other’s throats. This was your classic playoff game. Two old rivals battling for every inch. That meant plenty of scrums and even some sneaky plays that should’ve been penalties. A high stick was missed that cut Brady Skjei below the visor. Mats Zuccarello was his nasty self mixing it up all night with Gallagher. He also got away with one on Weber. Following a great Weber hit on him against the boards, Zuccarello tripped Weber with his leg. A dirty play for sure. But I’ll take that. They don’t have enough of those players.
The Rangers played a smart third. While they did sit back a little too much at times, they took away the Habs’ speed. They negated any dangerous chances. In fact, Montreal only had six shots. The Rangers doubled them up with 12. If not for a sensational Price, it would’ve been 4 or 5-0. That one mistake on Glass’ second career postseason goal was enough to lose. Price made 29 saves.
Vigneault mixed up his lines. At times, he had Miller with Zibanejad and a very active Rick Nash, who had a good game. He was very noticeable throughout getting three shots on net and attempting six. That line with Jimmy Vesey was solid. They came close a couple of times with Zibanejad missing one over the top off a Nash set up. Vesey had a redirect from Zibanejad that Price squeezed.
It was a game where the top line didn’t distinguish itself. It wasn’t that Zuccarello, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider were bad. They played responsibly. But more is expected. They know they can be better. Of course, Kreider heard loud boos every time he touched the puck to my amusement. Zuccarello was the most effective mixing it up every chance he got. That included a wrestling match with Gallagher, who was a royal pain throughout.
When they realized they weren’t gonna score, Montreal got dirty. Out of all people, veteran defenseman Andrei Markov intentionally speared Nash with 25 seconds remaining during a stoppage. That sent it into overdrive. Players were jawing at each other. Somehow, the officials missed the spear. They assessed Markov a misconduct while giving Gallagher and Zuccarello matching roughs. Vigneault was astonished standing on the bench with a few words for the refs.
But when it was over, nothing else happened. Happy Rangers came over to congratulate Lundqvist on a job well done. They got it done with a very engaged and good overall defensive effort. There were some hairy moments with Staal and Holden. But this was a good start. Now, it’s the Canadiens who have the pressure going into Game 2 on Friday.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Jesper Fast, NYR (assisted on Grabner’s empty netter, 5 hits, was tenacious throughout, +2 in 25 shifts-13:54)
2nd Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (31 saves including 16/16 in 1st, robbed Weber and pitched his 10th career playoff shutout)
1st Star-Tanner Glass, NYR (game-winning goal-2nd of playoff career, only 2 hits because he played smart, +1 in 13 shifts-8:01)
Playoff Notes: Teams finished even in shots at 31 apiece. Attempts favored the Canadiens 68-60. Both Weber and Pacioretty finished with five shots and 11 attempts. Surprisingly, Smith led all Rangers with four shots. Only Fast didn’t register a shot. McDonagh, Nash and Zuccarello tied with six attempts each. … The hitting was a story. Montreal and the Rangers totaled 98 hits with the Habs holding a 53-45 advantage. Paul Byron led everyone with seven. Three Blueshirts tied with five including Girardi, Fast and Skjei, who delivered a payback for the uncalled high stick he took. … Key Stat which both teams will want to address for Game 2. Giveaways: NYR 15 MTL 21. Even though he didn’t do much offensively, Hayes won 6-of-11 draws. Plekanec led the Habs going 11-and-7.
… The Habs were without Alexei Emelin. Both Jordie Benn and Nikita Nesterov dressed. … In other action, the Bruins edged the Senators 2-1 on a Brad Marchand goal with 2:33 left to go up 1-0. The Pens defeated the Blue Jackets 3-1 behind 31 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury. Matt Murray suffered a lower-body injury in warm ups. Phil Kessel had a power play goal and assist while Evgeni Malkin reappeared with two helpers. … The two Western games are currently live. St. Louis lead Minnesota 1-0 after two on Vladimir Sobotka’s goal. Edmonton leads San Jose 2-1 with Milan Lucic scoring one.
Henrik gets to put the first piece on the Stanley Cup puzzle to rousing cheers from happy teammates:
Alain Vigneault speaks to reporters about winning Game 1 but not getting ahead of himself: