MONTREAL – Martin St. Louis started the onslaught and Henrik Lundqvist posted his first win in Montreal in more than two years as the New York Rangers routed the Canadiens 7-2 to open the NHL Eastern Conference final on Saturday afternoon.
St. Louis, who is to attend his mother’s funeral with his teammates on Sunday, got the opening goal before Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Brad Richards, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash also scored for the Rangers, a team that had scored only four goals in its last nine regular-season visits to the Bell Centre.
Rene Bourque and Lars Eller scored for Montreal, which saw star goalie Carey Price apparently injure his right leg when he was run over early in the second period. Price was replaced by Peter Budaj after the second period but it was not clear if it was because of an injury.
It was Montreal’s worst playoff defeat since losing 8-2 to Carolina in 2002.
Budaj was beaten on his first shot, a bullet from the slot by McDonagh on a power play at 1:28. The frustrated Canadiens then took a succession of penalties, including two minors and a misconduct to former Ranger Brandon Prust. Stepan scored and Nash broke his slump with his first in 15 games in this year’s playoffs.
Montreal got one back while shorthanded with 4:38 left in the game when Eller beat Lundqvist with a quick, high shot from the slot.
That St. Louis got the Rangers started was fitting, as he became a rallying point for his team for playing a day after his mother France’s death as they erased a 3-1 series deficit to beat Pittsburgh in the second round.
The boost the Canadiens got from their rousing pre-game ceremonies in the first two series wasn’t there as the Rangers showed all the speed and intensity in the opening frame, outshooting Montreal 12-6 and taking a 2-0 lead.
Dominic Moore jumped on a loose puck after Michael Bournival partially blocked a point shot and slipped a pass to a wide open St. Louis at the doorstep to open the scoring at 4:35.
Moore was the playmaker again as he slid a pass in front of the net and the trailing Zuccarrello was able to poke it into an open side as the Rangers beat Price twice on their first five shots.
Bourque took consecutive hooking calls late in the first period, but made up for it in the second as he went hard to the net, whacked at Brian Gionta’s pass and saw it go in off McDonagh’s stick at 12:38.
That brought the 21,273 at the Bell Centre back to life, but they went quiet again as Stepan broke in alone on the left side and beat Price with a low shot at 18:59.
With 11.6 seconds left in the period, Zuccarello made a sweet reverse pass that had Price out of position for Richards to score into an open side.
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Lundqvist had not played a game in Montreal since allowing four goals on Jan. 15, 2012. His last win there was March 17, 2009.
He didn’t look in top form, but didn’t need to be as Montreal managed only 22 shots.
Notes: Rangers centre Derrick Brassard left the game early in the first period with a suspected shoulder injury after a hit from Mike Weaver and did not return. … The Rangers went 3-for-6 on the power play after scoring only three times in 29 opportunities over their first 14 playoff games.