The eagerly anticipated matchup between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference turned out to be a one-sided battle on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Looking to win their 10th straight game at home—something they had not done since the 1939-40 season—the Rangers were up against their bitter rivals, the Montreal Canadiens.
Both teams had All-Star goaltenders to call upon, but neither was present, as the Montreal Canadiens butchered the Rangers 5-1.
The Rangers never looked to be in the game from the start. Carey Price, who had only returned to full action last weekend after spending three weeks on the sidelines due to a lower body injury, was on point and made 22 saves through two periods before he was replaced by Mike Condon to start the third period.
To make matters worse, Montreal coach Michel Therrien revealed that the goaltender had suffered the same injury again and ruled him out of Friday’s encounter with the Devils. However, the Canadiens are unlikely to sweat over the injury after boasting quite a great record against the Rangers of late (they have won seven of the last nine games against the New York Rangers).
Devante Smith-Pelly scored two goals while Sven Andrighetto, Alex Galchenyuk, and Max Pacioretty scored one each. Henrik Lundqvist, on the other hand, was pulled out after the Canadiens scored their fifth goal.
Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault was visibly shocked at the manner of the defeat. He must have been expecting a tough encounter, but his team had lost just once in regulation at the Garden this season.
Andrighetto, who was only recently recalled from St. John’s of the American Hockey League, scored his first goal of the season at 4 minutes 45 seconds of the first period after some great playing by Lars Eller and P.K. Subban. The 22-year-old Swiss forward backhanded a rebound past Lundqvist.
“I like fast hockey, it’s my game,” Andrighetto said after the morning skate. “I want to enjoy this,” he said, referring to his first appearance at the Garden.
And indeed, for most part of the night, the Canadiens seemed to be enjoying themselves out there and played with the sort of fluidity that bodes well for the franchise as the season matures.
Smith-Pelly replaced Brendan Gallagher to the top unit and banged home another rebound at 2:25 of the second as the Canadiens continued to dominate proceedings. And although Rick Nash gave fans some hope after scoring at 17:42 of the period to make it 2-1 for his seventh goal of the season, it was nothing more than a mere consolation for a team that had to suffer one of its most frustrating nights this season.
Just 17 seconds into the third period, Smith-Pelly scored his second goal of the game, and at the 1:29 mark, Galchenyuk scored the fourth goal just before Pacioretty scored his 12th of the campaign at 9:06 on the power play.
A comeback was never in the cards, and it was clear that the Rangers were thoroughly trounced by an elite squad of players that was not going to be as forgiving as the opponents the Rangers had been facing these past few weeks.