NYR 2, MTL 3 (SO) - Rangers Earn Point Against Phenomenal Price

MTL 3, NYR 2
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As much as Sunday’s matinee tilt against the Capitals felt like a playoff game, tonight’s game against the Atlantic-leading Canadiens (31-20-8, 70 points) lacked a playoff chutzpah until late, which is ironic considering that if the playoffs started tomorrow, the two would face each other. Despite their proximity in the standings, New York and Montreal have been trending in opposite directions.

Before Tuesday night’s contest, the Rangers had won five in a row at home and were 7-1 in their last eight, allowing a stingy 17 goals over that span. On the flip side, Montreal was 1-6-1 with 11 total goals and had been shutout three times in their last eight. New head coach Claude Julien was at the helm for their most recent loss against Winnipeg.

The team’s goalies—arguably the two best netminders in the league over the last decade—have been the embodiment of their teams’ overall play. Carey Price was just 2-6 in his last eight starts with an alarmingly high 3.03 goals against average and alarmingly low .905 save percentage in that span. Henrik Lundqvist, who has had his own struggles this year, has won six of his last seven starts and boasts a 1.99 goals against average and staggering .941 save percentage.

In the end, it was Price who stole the show. While Hank was strong but not phenomenal, Price made a handful of world-class saves for the win.

Through a choppy first period in which each team generated a goal but failed to generate any consistent pressure, neither goalie was tested much. After falling behind 1-0, Alain Vigneault implored his team to start making plays with the puck as, until that point, they had failed to find both the pace and crispness that they had against the Caps.

That changed momentarily with a phenomenal three-zone goal effort from Oscar Lindberg, and a nice helper from Jesper Fast. They combined with Brady Skjei to get the Rangers on the board and tied heading into intermission. You won’t see a harder-working fourth-line goal that includes this much skill. Brady Skjei also assisted on the play.

“I love the hockey play. It wasn’t a fourth-line looking goal,” Stephen Valiquette noted on the MSG broadcast after the game.

In the second, after Shea Weber scored on a power play one-timer bomb, the Rangers began to find their legs. Rick Nash was excellent all night but had two breakaways in a matter of minutes sprung by Ryan McDonagh and after being stopped while deking on the first, cashed in on a wrister on his second opportunity. Nash’s 17th of the year concluded scoring in regulation as both teams punctuated a tight-checking third period with a few good chances but never looked particularly threatening to score.

In overtime, as is always the case with the 3-on-3 format, both teams generated chances. Both goalies were up to the task and, really, stole the show. But the biggest moment came from the Canadien netminder, who robbed the American duo of Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller in a 2-on-1 as time expired.

In the shootout, which isn’t a fair way to judge goalie performances, Price had the edge and earned the win as Mats Zuccarello was the only one of the Rangers five shooters to score. Though he got a little bit of help from the butt-end of his stick and the crossbar as he was beaten by Derek Stepan’s wrister.

Entering overtime, New York led the NHL with a 17-6-1 record in one-goal games. The loser point was just the Rangers’ second of the year, but they remain second in the East with just one fewer win than Washington.

The Blueshirts are back in action on Thursday night as they visit Toronto.

NOTES: The Rangers powerplay was 0-4; Claude Julien got his first win with Montreal since returning; New York owned a 30-28 shot advantage; Brady Skjei is now second in points and assists and first in even-strength assists amongst rookie defensemen.

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