Links updated Sunday 6:40 a.m.
New York Rangers’ Petr Prucha beats Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet up under the crossbar for the home team’s third of four goals.
Mike Stobe, NHLI via Getty Images
The Canadiens came into Saturday’s Madison Square Garden game against the New York Rangers having won five of their last seven, impressive 5-2 victors over the Boston Bruins on Thursday to begin a four-game road trip. Their Big Apple hosts, meanwhile, had lost five straight.
All of which goes to show that any National Hockey League team can beat another on any given night. Especially when one forgets to take off its skateguards.
The Canadiens’ league-leading power play went a dismal 1-for-8, getting nothing on two lengthy 5-on-3s, and a fired-up Rangers squad took full advantage of its opportunities to hand a 4-1 loss to a visitor that was outshot 41-19 and showed little interest in putting up a fight.
Montreal’s terribly flat first period set the tone for the game, being outshot 13-6 and going 0-for-2 on the power play, only two of Montreal’s shots coming at even strength.
An Andrei Markov giveaway helped get the Rangers on the scoreboard early. Chris Drury and Marcel Hossa charged back to the Canadiens end to combine on a fine give-and-go passing play and a great Drury deke of Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet converted the rush at 3:17.
The Habs appeared to be in pause 10 minutes later when Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr was allowed to stickhandle unmolested to Huet’s side, four Canadiens impressed enough to stand around and watch. Martin Straka wound up taking a pass and whipped it home to give New York a 2-0 advantage.
Montreal’s woes continued early in the second period, coming up empty on a minute-long 5-on-3 power play, before Petr Prucha put the Rangers up 3-0 on a left-alone-at-the-goalmouth score that hit the white frame high inside the crossbar behind Huet. The play required video review after it was first waved off, but it was a goal beyond a doubt.
The Rangers continued to play with fire, giving the Canadiens another 5-on-3 for 1:41 midway through the second. But that yielded nothing for the Habs, leaving them 0-for-6 on the power play.
On a delayed penalty call to Montreal, the Rangers made it 4-0, Nigel Dawes beating Huet on a very stoppable shot to the short side at 19:38. New York held a 15-8 in shots in the second period; eight of Montreal’s 14 shots had come with the made advantage.
Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau decided to sit Huet for the third period and replaced his veteran with backup Jaroslav Halak, who’d been called up last Tuesday afternoon from the Hamilton Bulldogs in the move sending Carey Price back to the Habs’ AHL affiliate.
Halak stopped all 13 shots fired his way in the final period.
The Canadiens finally solved Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist 7:10 into the third period on the power play, Markov feeding Andrei Kostitsyn from the blueline to the faceoff circle, Kostitsyn then perfectly feeding his brother, Sergei, parked at the edge of the crease, for his third goal of the season.
The Habs were scheduled to have Sunday off – though that might be subject to change given the team’s effort at MSG – before practising on Monday for Tuesday’s game in Long Island vs. the Islanders. The road trip wraps up Thursday in Atlanta before next Saturday’s home date against Pittsburgh.