Well now, so much for that Henrik Lundqvist jinx in Montreal against the Canadiens. The New York Rangers goalie certainly was good enough to make sure his team prevailed in the curtain raiser of the East final.
Lundqvist, who has a career .920 save percentage in the NHL , wasn't all that busy on Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre. But after his team snatched a two-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes, he was excellent in the second period to give his team a chance as his 20 saves, in total, were good enough to give the Rangers a 7-2 victory to snatch a 1-0 series lead.
Even though, Lundqvist was so good in the final three games of the Rangers second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a .971 save percentage to lead New York to its comeback seven-game win, there was doubt about King Henrik because of the team he was about to face in the East final.
Lundqvist answers (at) the Bell
He's been mediocre at best against the Canadiens in the last few seasons. He hasn't played at the Bell Centre since Jan. 15, 2012 and he hasn't won in Montreal since 2009. Lundqvist has been so bad against the Canadiens that Alain Vigneault, in his first year behind the Rangers bench, played rookie backup Cam Talbot in all three meetings against Montreal this season. But Vigneault was good enough.
Even better was the play of a couple of former Canadiens in Dominic Moore and Ryan McDonagh. Okay, defenceman McDonagh never did suit up for Montreal. But he was drafted by the Canadiens (12th overall in 2007) before he was dealt four years later in a trade with the Rangers in exchange for Scott Gomez.
It's a trade the Canadiens faithful would like to have back, especially since McDonagh checked in with a goal and club playoff record four points in the series opener.
The Rangers clearly are a team that has received an emotional lift from the death of France St. Louis, who unexpectedly passed away 11 days ago at the age of 63. Since the death of Martin St. Louis' mother, the Rangers have reeled off four straight wins and have outscored the opposition 17-5 in those games.
With the Rangers in Montreal, St. Louis and his teammates attended a wake for his mother on Friday. On Sunday, they together will celebrate France's life at a funeral in nearby Laval.
"It's been very emotional for our whole group, and he's handled it in an incredible way that probably has helped our team come closer together," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Tomorrow is going to be a tough day for our group. We need to be there to support him, and we'll do that tomorrow and get ready for Monday."
Another Rangers player who has handled death in an inspirational manner was the 33-year-old Moore. He lost his wife Katie 16 months ago to cancer. He didn't play last year as he dealt with the difficult times. He's always been a dependable playoff performer. In fact, Moore played a huge role in the Habs run to the East final in 2010.
"He did an unreal job," said Vigneault, who watched his determined checking centre set up goals from St. Louis and Mats Zuccarello in the first period.
"We all know his story. He's handled his situation in a professional way."
'An inspirational character'
The humble Moore, who did such a good job in the previous round checking Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, remarked that he has been inspired by St. Louis and the way he has dealt with the death of his mother.
"I've been fortunate enough to have played with Marty before," said Moore, who was a teammate with St. Louis on the Tampa Bay Lightning for two seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12. "He's an inspirational character.
"To do that [attend the funeral] for Marty is great for sure."
There were a couple of injury developments in the East final opener. The Rangers lost forward Derick Brassard, who was raised in Hull, Que., after he was rocked in the first period by Montreal defenceman Mike Weaver. With Game 2 on Monday evening in Montreal, Brassard has been listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price was shaken up in the second period with a collision with Rangers forward Chris Kreider, but Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said he lifted Price to start the third period not because of injury but to protect him with the game out of hand.
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