MONTREAL – Well, that should be more than enough to convince the New York Rangers they are fully capable of winning in the notoriously raucous Bell Centre.
Heading into the series with just one win in the past 10 games at the Bell Centre, the Rangers sent fans clamoring for the exits by the third period with the decisive series-opening victory. Martin St. Louis scored the game’s first goal in an emotional return to his native Montreal, Rick Nash snapped his nagging scoring slump, defenseman Ryan McDonagh finished with a team-high four points and the Rangers even managed to chase Habs netminder Carey Price from the net to snatch a 1-0 series lead from a Canadiens team that Rangers coach Alain Vigneault dubbed “the favorites” before the best-of-seven set began.
The only pockmark on an otherwise confidence-boosting win was the loss of center Derick Brassard, who left the game with an injury during the first period and did not return. The Rangers, who won three games against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center in Round 2, will try to secure another road win in Game 2 at Bell Centre on Monday.
Rangers keep coming: Though Rene Bourque, who was whistled for two hooking penalties in the first period, cut New York’s lead in half during the middle frame and got the crowd back into the game, the feeling was fleeting as the Blueshirts took control before the period was over. Chris Kreider, whose speed is an absolutely vital component for the Rangers against a similarly swift Habs squad, beat Price off the rush, making it look effortless as he allowed his team to reclaim a two-goal lead. Veteran center Brad Richards then sapped the building of all its energy with just seconds remaining in the period, scoring a goal on a sharp-angle shot that gave the Rangers a 4-1 lead, and all the momentum, heading into the final stanza.
Moore of that: Dominic Moore was the shining star of the first frame, making two excellent feeds to spark the first pair of Rangers goals and deflate some of the energy in the Bell Centre. Moore executed an excellent no-look feed to set up St. Louis all alone at the left post for the game’s first goal at 4:35. He didn’t end up with the primary assist on the next Rangers’ goal, Mats Zuccarello's fourth playoff goal this spring, but he was responsible for the scoring play nonetheless with yet another sweet pass that earned him a secondary helper on the sequence that left the Rangers with a two-goal lead just 6:27 into play.
Big loss: Key forward Brassard, who centers the Rangers’ most productive line, left the game during the first period with an apparent back injury. Brassard was crushed by a huge, open-ice hit from Montreal’s Mike Weaver just 3:03 into play and was slow to get up afterward. Brassard, who hails from Hull, Quebec, left the Rangers' bench after being worked on by the team’s head athletic trainer and headed to the dressing room. He did not return to the game. Should Brassard miss any amount of time this series, that threatens to be a huge loss for the Rangers, considering he centers the team’s most consistent and productive forward line that includes Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot. Brassard entered the playoffs nursing a back injury, though it was not believed to be serious and did not force him to miss any time.