NYR 2, MTL 0 - King Henrik Shines as Rangers Take Series Lead

Henrik Lundqvist was serenaded with sarcastic “Hen-rik” chants in the Bell Centre, where he’s struggled in his career, to start the Rangers’ playoff run, but on Wednesday night, the chants did nothing to get the King off of his throne. He was sparkling, making 31 saves en route to a 2-0 win in the series opener. Thumper Tanner Glass’ surprising’ first-period goal, ended up as the game-winner.

The odds on Glass scoring the first goal of the playoffs for the Rangers were probably pretty slim, so drinks are on you if you placed that bet. Glass’ second-career playoff goal gave the Rangers the lead in a first period in which they were outshot 16-5. His line, with Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast, was excellent all night.

After looking a bit skittish early on, the Rangers dominated the first half of the second period and had ten of the first 11 shots. They had a 13-9 advantage in the period and followed it up with a 13-6 shot advantage in the third period that was punctuated by Michael Grabner’s empty-net goal.

The story, of course, is Henrik Lundqvist. He finished with 31 saves and though the Rangers defense did a good job of clearing sight lines and getting to rebounds, he made a handful of terrific saves to preserve the 1-0 lead, including a couple of stops on Shea Weber.

While the King got the win, Carey Price, who avoided the skates of Montreal’s Most Wanted was excellent in the loss. He was at his best in the first half of the second period and finished with 29 saves on 30 shots. Despite the loss, Price continued his trend of regular season excellence against the Rangers.

Before the game, there were legitimate questions about whether or not the Rangers could “flip the switch” after a lackluster conclusion to the season. For Dan Girardi, who played in his 111th playoff game, the answer was a resounding yes. While he didn’t find the scoresheet, Girardi set a nasty, physical tone for New York and played the sound defensive shutdown game you expect.

Paired with Ryan McDonagh, he helped shut down the combination of Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov. Girardi finished with five hits and four blocked shots in 21:16.

Game one, in all, was representative of the teams’ conflicting styles. When Montreal had the edge, their heavy forecheck was effective. New York, contrarily, was effective when they were fast and beat the Canadiens’ big bodies to pucks. While one game does not warrant a trend, you get the feeling that the Habs are going to have a hard time scoring if they have to go 200 feet. Smart, fast hockey, as Alain Vigneault mentioned before the series started, will continue to be the key.

The Blueshirts and Habs meet again in Montreal on Friday night as the Rangers will look to repeat the 2014 series and take the first two games on the road.


Notes

Lundqvist got his tenth career playoff shutout; Grabner scored his third career playoff goal; New York and Montreal combined to go 0-for-7 on the power play; The game had 98 total hits; Faceoffs were even on the night; Lundqvist’s last shutout was on January 22nd against Detroit.

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