By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
It's been the same story for four years running: the Rangers just can not buy a win at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Saturday night they ran their winless skid to eight games (0-7-1) in Montreal, falling to the Canadiens 3-0.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price made 34 saves to record his third shutout of the season, and the 19th of his NHL career. He has now shut out the Rangers in each of his last four starts against them at the Bell Centre, including a pair this season.
Martin Biron started in goal for the first time in ten games for the Rangers and surrendered three goals on 26 shots. Biron started both games at the Bell Centre this season, his only two regulation losses this year.
Coming off a 3-0 loss in Ottawa Thursday night, the Rangers were shut out in back-to-back games to close out this road trip after it began Tuesday night with an inspired 5-2 victory in Philadelphia. The Rangers have been blanked on five different occasions this season.
The Rangers misfortune in Montreal kicked in only 47 seconds after the first puck drop of the night. Michael Ryder banged the puck off the back boards, had it kick back off the side of the Rangers net and then Biron's stick, and out into the slot where Ryder collected the puck and put it into the net. Ryder's 13th goal of the season---and third in the last two games---marked the 22nd time in 34 games in which the Rangers had surrendered the first goal of the game.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Montreal entered play with an imposing 17-3-3 record this season when scoring the first goal.
But to their credit, the Rangers shrugged off the early deficit and went to work, putting together a strong first period, one which featured 17 shots on goal and numerous prime scoring chances. Unfortunately Price stymied them at every turn, and at the other end of the ice Tomas Plekanec ripped a right wing shot past Biron with 1:49 left in the period, putting the Rangers in a 2-0 hole despite, by and large, a solid first period of play.
The Rangers came close to scoring on several occasions in that first period, including a J.T. Miller shot that hit the post stick-side behind Price four minutes into the game. Eight minutes later Miller was set up in the slot off a pretty pass from behind the net by Ryan Callahan, but the rookie's one-timer was smothered by Price.
The best scoring chance came off the stick of Marian Gaborik, who seemed energized by starting the game on the fourth line after an on-ice meeting with head coach John Tortorella at practice on Friday. Quickly moved up to a line with Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello in the first period, Gaborik was flying in the opening 20 minutes, and with 3:30 to play in the first he burst between two defenders during a Rangers power play and broke in alone on Price, only to have his shot denied by the Canadiens goaltender.
Less than two minutes later Plekanec scored his 13th goal on a 2-on-1 rush after Ryan McDonagh was caught up ice, and the Rangers found themselves trailing 2-0. That deficit became 3-0 when rookie Brendan Gallagher netted his 11th goal off a power play scramble where Biron had made two saves before Gallagher banked the rebound in off the Rangers netminder.
Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban continued his terrific play this season by assisting on all three Candiens goals. He now has 27 points in 28 games this season.
Zuccarello made his season debut for the Rangers and was engaged offensively throughout. He played alongside Richards and either Gaborik or Chris Kreider at even strength, and was installed on the point of the top power play unit--though they only had one power play the entire game.
The Rangers return home to host the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night, before playing a home-and-home with the Pittsburgh Penguins---Wednesday in New York and Friday in Pittsburgh.