MONTREAL – The goaltending skill of Montreal’s Carey Price and the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist was at the forefront for a night and it was the Canadiens’ puck-stopper who came out on top.
Roman Hamrlik and Tomas Plekanec each scored power-play goals in the opening period and Price held off a furious third-period barrage as the Canadiens egded the Rangers 3-2 on Saturday night in a game between two clubs struggling for goals.
New York was held to a goal on 12 shots through the first two periods. They poured on 21 shots in the third, but settled only for Mats Zuccarello’s tally to make it a one-goal game.
Lundqvist was pulled for an extra attacker in the final two minutes and the Rangers buzzed the net, but Price held on for his 22nd win of the season.
“It was definitely a game of momentum,” said Price. “We had it for most of the game, but they got it in the third. It felt like we played the whole period in our end.”
Andrei Kostitsyn also scored in the first as Montreal (25-17-3) downed the Rangers for the second time in a week after a 2-1 win Tuesday night in New York. The Canadiens are 5-1-1 in their last seven contests.
Brian Boyle also scored for the Rangers (26-17-3), who return home to face Philadelphia on Sunday night.
Montreal had a 41-33 edge in shots, and shooters on both sides were left wanting more.
The Rangers have not scored more than three goals in nine straight games but also have not allowed more than three in 10 straight. Meanwhile, Montreal has gone 13 without scoring more than three.
Lundqvist was coming off a 1-0 shutout that ended Vancouver’s 17-game points streak, but it was tougher at the Bell Centre where he allowed an average of more than 4.5 goals per game in seven previous appearances.
The Canadiens, still smarting from a 5-2 loss on home ice Wednesday to Pittsburgh, outshot New York 16-6 in the opening period and took a 3-1 lead.
But Lundqvist was brilliant in the second as he was peppered with shots on two Montreal power plays. Late in the period, he was knocked over as Max Pacioretty was pushed into him and he jumped the Canadiens winger and threw a flurry of punches.
“I felt he didn’t try to stop,” said Lundqvist. “But the energy in this building makes you want to jump guys sometimes. It’s hard to stay calm.
“Seriously, it happens. During the season you always have people run into you, but as long as they try to stop, nothing happens.”
The referees agreed, handing Pacioretty a goaltender interference call.
Boyle scored first as he used his six-foot-seven frame to outmuscle Jaroslav Spacek at the side of the net and get his 15th at 6:58.
The Canadiens scored on consecutive power plays as Hamrlik put a shot in off a Ranger skate at 13:19 and Plekanec stopped P.K. Subban’s diagonal pass with a skate and lifted the puck over Lundqvist at 14:50.
Jeff Halpern won a faceoff in the Rangers zone and in the ensuing pressure Kostitsyn was left alone in front to score his first goal in 10 games at 16:03. That set the crowd of 21,273 to chanting Lundqvist’s name in derision.
“It was tough after three goals,” added the Rangers goalie. “We’ve had some crazy games in here.
“I just tried to play my best and see what happened. We had a chance in the third and we came close.”
Zuccarello, known as the “Norwegian Hobbit,” was left unguarded at the side of the net to take a feed from Derek Stepan and score on his second crack at the puck 6:57 into the third.
The energized Rangers pressed for the equalizer and the Canadiens played with fire with a defence-only approach, practically handing New York the puck on many occasions. Price held the fort the rest of the way.
Coach Jacques Martin praised his team for keeping the lead.
“You like to spend more time in the offensive zone, but you’ve got to respect the opposition,” Martin said. “We beat a very good team twice in a week.
“We knew they’d come out hard. You watched the clock, but we have a lot of confidence in our goaltender and our team to protect a lead.”
Notes: Michael Cammalleri returned after missing two games with strep throat for Montreal and tied for the team high with six shots. … Pacioretty missed practice Friday with flu symptoms and was doubtful to play, but it was decided after the warm-up he was ready. That bumped Tom Pyatt from the lineup. Alexandre Picard was scratched. …Dale Weise sat out for New York.