By Dan Mount, Contributing Writer
For a pair of teams that had a lot in common this postseason, the New York Rangers got off to an uncommon start.
The Rangers scored early and often as they trounced the Montreal Canadiens, 7-2, in the opening game of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals to take a 1-0 series lead.
Defensemen Ryan McDonagh scored a power-play goal and handed out three assists to become to the first Rangers’ blueliner to get four points since Brian Leetch in game four of the 1994 Stanley Cup final against Vancouver.
Mats Zuccarello supplied a goal and two assists as New York got all seven goals from seven different scorers. Henrik Lundqvist seemingly got over his lousy play at the Bell Centre by making 20 saves, including several key saves in the second period on Montreal’s P.K. Subban.
Lars Eller recorded a goal and an assist, while Rene Bourque scored the first goal for Montreal. Carey Price stopped 16 shots, but gave up four goals before getting pulled for backup Peter Budaj at the end of the second period.
Martin St. Louis started off the scoring in front of his hometown fans as he scored 4:35 into the first. Zuccarello then scored less than two minutes later to give the Blueshirts a 2-0 lead.
Rene Bourque cut the lead to 2-1, but the Rangers scored twice at the tail end of the second on goals by Chris Kreider and Brad Richards, who scored within 49 seconds of each other. The Rangers then added goals by McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash before Eller capped the scoring.
There were some notable players that got roughed up in the game. Rangers forward Derek Brassard left only 35 seconds into the game after taking a hard hit from Mike Weaver. Montreal’s Carey Price may have been dealing with his own injury trouble after Chris Kreider lost his edge and went skates-first into Price’s right leg. The Canadiens goalie was down for a few minutes before staying in the game and then was pulled to start the third.
No word on whether Brassard or Price will play in game two, which is 8 p.m. EST Monday in Montreal.
The much-maligned Rangers power-play cashed in on three goals in the third period after former Ranger Brandon Prust earned a pair of minors and a 10-minute misconduct. New York had been moving the puck fairly well even before the game got out of hand. Dominic Moore assisted on the first two goals with a couple of excellent passes.
Earlier in the season, the Rangers finally snapped an eight-game losing streak at the Bell Centre, but this time Lundqvist finally had a good game in Montreal. Henrik’s previous start on Jan. 25, 2012 ended when he was pulled after giving up four goals.
The Rangers also continue their excellent play on the road with their third straight victory away from Madison Square Garden. New York did set a franchise-record in road wins this season.
The loss was the Habs worst playoff defeat since they lost 8-2 to Carolina in the 2002 playoffs during the Eastern Conference semifinal.
Dan Mount covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for NYSportScene.com. He also is an NHL columnist for TJRSports.com and is a producer for Spadora on Sports. He can be found on Twitter @DanMountSports.