Behind a rock-solid outing from goaltender Cam Talbot and an inspired performance throughout their entire lineup, the Rangers did something Saturday night that they had not done since the 2008-09 season---win a game at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The Rangers 1-0 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday was their first after an 0-7-1 run of futility in Montreal, and was highlighted by Talbot's first shutout in the National Hockey League.
While the Rangers played dilgently defensively in front of their back up goaltender, Talbot stood out making 22 saves to run his record to 4-1-0 in five starts since being recalled from the minor leagues. Talbot has allowed two or fewer goals in each of those five starts, and ended up being the perfect choice to help end the Canadiens hex over the Rangers at the Bell Centre. It was the Rangers first hutout in Montreal since Ed Giacomin backstopped a 5-0 victory over the Canadiens at the Montreal Forum on February 25, 1967---a span of more than 46 years.
Talbot had to be perfect on Saturday because Canadiens goaltender Carey Price played a gem of a game himself, stopping 33 of 34 Rangers shots as the visitors carried much of the play throughout the contest.
The Rangers, who were turned aside time and again by Price in an extremely spirited and well-played first period, finally broke through on the power play 5:25 into the second period. Three seconds after their 5-on-3 power play ended, Ryan Callahan tipped a Brad Richards blast past Price, ending a string of droughts for the Rangers against the Canadiens, and more importantly handed the visitors a well-deserved 1-0 lead.
Derek Stepan notched his team-high-tying tenth assist---eight of which have come on the power play---by sliding a soft pass to Richards at the top of the left circle, and the Rangers alternate captain hammered a one-timer towards the net, with Callahan deflecting the puck into the cage for his sixth goal of the season, and team-high fourth on the power play. Like Stepan, Richards also earned his tenth assist on Callahan's score.
The goal snapped a string of negative streaks for the Rangers against the Canadiens and Price. It was the Rangers first goal at the Bell Centre in 192 minutes 36 seconds, dating back to January 15, 2012. It was also the Rangers first goal overall against the Habs since January 19, 2013, a string of 232 minutes 56 seconds. Finally it was the first time that the Rangers had scored against Price in a whopping 278 minutes 10 seconds.
However there was no time to bask in the glow of Callahan's goal because the Canadiens had plenty of push back. Fortunately Talbot was stout and helped the Rangers stem the Habs tide, settling things down to a point where the visitors regained their footing and returned to their solid forecheck, puck-possession game.
Talbot stopped all 17 shots he faced through 40 minutes of play, including point-blank opportunities for Raphael Diaz and Brendan Gallagher within the first five minutes of the game when Montreal raced out to a 5-1 advantage in shots. With the stabilizing force of Talbot's play steadying them, the Rangers turned the first period around decidely in their favor, recording the final 14 of 16 shots recorded in the period, finishing with a 15-7 advantage.
In the second period Talbot shined with a pair of sterling saves on Daniel Briere and Brandon Prust at 4:15 with the Canadiens skating shorthanded. In the third period he faced only five shots, but made a pair during one wild scramble in the final minutes of the contest.
Chris Kreider had a monster first period, hitting everything in sight---including Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin whom he sent flying with a clean body check---notching a pair of shots on goal and ringing a wicked left wing snap shot off the near post 8:50 into the contest. Kreider and his first line mates Stepan and Mats Zuccarello buzzed in the offensive zone all period, but could not find a way to dent Price, even when Stepan was left wide-open in the low slot for a clean one-timer with 90 seconds to play in the period.
The fourth line also played a key role for the Rangers in the opening period, and throughout the entire game. Led by an energized Dominic Moore---back in the lineup after a seven-game injury absence---the Rangers fourth line frustrated the Canadiens time and again with their strong play on the puck and on the cycle. J.T. Miller, skating on that fourth line, was robbed in the opening period when Price somehow gloved down his left wing blast that seemed to be ticketed for the upper right corner. Moore won five of six faceoffs overall and played just under 14 minutes in his return to game action.
The Rangers defense corps was active at both ends of the ice, with Ryan McDonagh again standing out with his extremely strong play over 25:59 worth of ice-time. The group added Justin Falk on Saturday night, and after sitting out 11 straight games as a healthy scratch Falk played a smart, solid game---in particular in the first period when he kept the puck in at the point on three occasions leading to scoring opprotunities for New York.
Right back in action Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers will host the Los Angeles Kings with Henrik Lundqvist expected to start in goal.
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