NEW YORK -- After spending the first four weeks of the season on the road, the New York Rangers wanted to give their hometown crowd something to cheer about. But it was the visiting Montreal Canadiens who came away with the two points Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves for the Rangers, who visit the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
The Rangers certainly carried the play early on, outshooting Montreal 5-1 in the opening eight minutes, with the Canadiens blocking an additional five shot attempts in that span.
Chris Kreider had the first quality scoring chance less than two minutes into the game, when he pounced on a rebound off a John Moore point shot. But Budaj sprawled across the crease to get just enough of the puck to send it caroming off the post. As for the Canadiens, the game was over six minutes old before they registered their first shot on Lundqvist.
Plekanec got an excellent opportunity in front of the Rangers’ net and with Taylor Pyatt off for tripping. But Lundqvist stood tall and made the stop with 2:28 remaining in the period. Both teams enjoyed two five-on-four advantages in the first, but neither power play mustered too many quality shots in a tightly-contested period. Through 20 minutes, Montreal and New York actually combined for almost as many blocked shots (13) as shots on net (14).
The second period was also a defensive affair, with both teams combining for five shots in the opening 6:30. Galchenyuk had a quality scoring chance at the start of the period, as he found himself in front of a sprawling Lundqvist less than seven minutes into the second. But the 19-year-old couldn't quite gain enough control of the puck to get off a quality shot.
Throughout the period, both teams attempted to break out in the hopes of creating quality scoring chances. But to their credit, the Canadiens and Rangers did a very good job of clogging up passing lanes in transition.
New York's best chance of the second came with less than seven minutes remaining, when Kreider beat Francis Bouillon to a loose puck behind the Montreal net. He quickly fed Derek Stepan in front, but Budaj kept the game tied with a quick kick save. Halfway through the game, it was apparent that someone would have to pounce on an opportunity in order to break the 0-0 deadlock.
Montreal finally opened the scoring with 3:26 remaining in the second and Brian Boyle serving a roughing penalty. Rookie Michael Bournival's soft pass sent Plekanec storming towards the Rangers’ net down the left wing. The Canadiens center then went to his backhand to beat a sprawling Lundqvist for his team-leading sixth goal of the season. Bournival's assist gave the rookie at least one point in five of his past six games.
A tight game grew noticeably physical as it went along, particularly when Montreal captain Brian Gionta and Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh were each sent off for roughing in the final minute of the second.
In the third period, the Rangers appeared to have a prime opportunity when Brassard was left storming down the wing all alone following a collision at the Canadiens' blue line. But the collision was precipitated by Kreider catching a piece of Raphael Diaz's skate on the play, and Kreider was issued an interference penalty.
The Rangers found some space once more midway through the third when J.T. Miller found the puck just in front of Budaj. But once again, the Canadiens’ goaltender came through when counted on to make a timely stop. He did the same with four minutes remaining in regulation, stopping Mats Zuccarello on the doorstep off a Rangers rush. Moments later, Galchenyuk earned an important insurance marker when he tucked a cross-crease feed from Lars Eller into an open net to Lundqvist's right.
With the win, Montreal has now won four straight against the Rangers. The Canadiens have not lost to New York since March 30, 2012.