By Dan Mount, Contributing Writer
The New York Rangers finally have some breathing room in a playoff series.
Henrik Lundvist made 40 saves and New York got three straight goals from Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis resulting in a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. The win gives the Rangers a two games to none series lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
McDonagh assisted on the St. Louis goal and Derek Stepan supplied two assists for the Rangers.
Max Pacioretty scored the opening goal of the game for Montreal and Dustin Tokarski made 27 saves in his first NHL playoff start in relief of the injured Carey Price, who was ruled out for the rest of the series with a knee injury after a game one-collision with Chris Kreider.
Montreal went with Tokarski, who played most of the season at the Canadiens AHL affiliate Hamilton instead of regular backup Peter Budaj. Tokarski has wins in the Calder Cup (AHL), Memorial Cup (Canadian Juniors) and World Junior Championships.
The win is the first time in 14 games that the Rangers have won a playoff game when owning a series lead.
Montreal came out flying and scored the opening goal but New York answered 17 seconds later when McDongh’s shot deflected off of defensemen Josh Georges and the post past Tokarski. Nash then silenced the Bell Centre crowd with a goal 18:58 into the first period.
St. Louis finished the scoring with a power-play marker 8:03 into the second after one-timing a pass from Stepan.
The Canadiens pulled their goalie late in the third when they had a power play but could not draw any closer.
The emotional Montreal crowd booed Kreider every time that he touched the puck and felt a huge rush after the Pacioretty goal. However, the Rangers effectively took the crowd out of the game after both first period scores.
Montreal coach Michel Therrien and forward Brandon Prust were critical of Kreider not stopping in time and running into Price. Prust brought up previous skates-first collisions with Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson.
The Habs made some changes from game one as Alex Galchenyuk made his long awaited return from injury in place of Michael Bournival. There was early speculation of Travis Moen or Douglas Murray being put in the lineup to try and get some retribution on Kreider.
The Rangers also had to juggle their lineup as forward Derek Brassard did not suit up after suffering an apparent shoulder injury after a hard hit from the Habs’ Mike Weaver early in game one. Veteran tough guy Daniel Carcillo took Brassard’s place in the lineup.
Game three is 8 p.m. EST Thursday at Madison Square Garden. If the Rangers win game three, they can finish the series with a victory 8 p.m. EST Sunday in New York.
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.