After a year without playoff hockey, Montreal readies for post-season run

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

In his first playoff game for the Rangers on Wednesday night, Smith was at that level.

Then there was a scramble faceoff in the Canadiens' zone to Carey Price's left with Tanner Glass beating defenceman Jeff Petry to the loose puck in the circle.

The one-on-one battle all night between New York's Mats Zuccarello and Montreal's Brendan Gallagher? This time, Kreider pulled up when barrelling toward Price in the first period. The Penguins won Game 1, 3-1, over the Blue Jackets. Rangers fans should just assume they're not going to get anything with the man advantage because the Blueshirts haven't done anything for years when it's counted most.

New York Rangers goalie Magnus Hellberg (45) celebrates with Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei, right, after the Rangers defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in an NHL hockey game, Sunday, April 9, 2017, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The Canadiens had chances, especially while outshooting NY 16-5 in the first period.

Hank is Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and, while he has struggled against the Canadiens in the regular season - particularly at the Bell Centre - he has a 5-2 record against Montreal in the playoffs and has shutouts in the last two playoff meetings between the teams.

"Because we have seven experienced defensemen, and ... to some extent [Steve] Kampfer coming in and playing as strong as I felt he did with his skating ability, it gives us options", Vigneault said of his defense.

The best-of-seven series continues Friday in Montreal. NY has quietly pieced together another impressive season and while they haven't had the offensive flare we have seen in year's past or the goaltending prowess from Henrik Lundqvist but they have been consistent and are a tough matchup in the opening round for a Montreal side that doesn't have a ton of scoring power and might be in tough here if Carey Price can't steal his team a few games on the road. The Rangers won the series in six games before losing to the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.

"My game doesn't change". Under head coach Claude Julien, the Canadiens are allowing half a goal fewer per game than they were under Michel Therrien.

Andrei Markov - The Montreal defenceman was ejected for spearing Rangers winger Rick Nash late in Game One. "I got it up, but he made a great save". They can do that by keeping the puck out of their end, which means they'll have to be a much better possession team than they were in the regular season.

This season, Price has a save percentage of.923, while Lundqvist's save percentage is.910.

It was the first National Hockey League post-season game for numerous Oilers and they gave the puck away carelessly far too often.

"They're a great team".

Lundqvist's shutout was as good as it could get for the Rangers. The Canadiens didn't play badly, other than not scoring a goal.

"You look at the other games tonight and there isn't a ton of scoring", Julien said.

Joe Thornton - San Jose's veteran centre didn't play in Game One against Edmonton, still hurting after suffering a knee injury late in the regular season.

Montreal went 16-7-1 to close out the year once Julien took over as head coach, earning the Atlantic Division title with a five-point cushion.

"If you look at the series, it's going to be a goaltending matchup", center Derek Stepan, who was tops on the Rangers with three points in the season series against Montreal, told the team's website.


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