Lang's hat trick lifts Habs over Rangers
Discipline and a previously inept power play guided the Montreal Canadiens to their second consecutive victory Wednesday night.
Forward Robert Lang's goal with the man advantage early in the third period lifted the Canadiens to a convincing 6-3 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Lang led the Canadiens with his second career hat trick, while defenceman Andrei Markov added a goal and an assist.
It was Lang's first three-goal effort since Nov. 12, 2003 when he was a member of the Washington Capitals.
Lang netted his three goals on the power play, at even strength, and with Montreal short-handed.
"You have to kind of challenge yourself that way. No, I'm just kidding," Lang, the team's leader with 15 goals, said with a laugh.
Alex Kovalev and Guillaume Latendresse also scored for Montreal and goaltender Jaroslav Halak made 36 saves. Halak is still playing in the place of starter Carey Price, who is nursing a lower body injury.
Halak had surrendered eight goals in his last two starts and was pulled after allowing three on 22 shots in a 4-1 loss at New Jersey on Friday.
"I gave up some bad goals over there, but I'm not the first guy who did that and I'm not the last one," said Halak. "I knew I could play better. I was happy with my performance."
Montreal (23-10-6) won for the fifth time in their last six games, earning their third straight victory over the Rangers (24-15-3).
The Habs have beaten New York twice at the Bell Centre. Montreal completed a remarkable five-goal comeback for a 6-5 shootout win last February, and hammered the Rangers during a 6-2 victory last month.
On Wednesday, the Canadiens scored two power-play goals against New York, snapping a three-game drought.
Montreal's power play is the fourth worst in the NHL and had converted only once in 22 opportunities during the previous five games.
"It's been kind of a hit and miss, more miss the last four or five games," said Lang.
Montreal also did a masterful job staying out of the penalty box for most of the night. The team committed only three penalties — all in the game's final five minutes.
The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead just 3:05 into the opening period on a turnover by New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Failing to feel the pressure from behind his net, Lundqvist's attempted clear-out pass went right to Montreal winger Max Pacioretty. The rookie then fed the puck to Kovalev, who buried a shot by Lundqvist.
New York tied the game at 17:22 of the first when Chris Drury's rebound slid behind Halak.
The Habs wasted little time in jumping on the Rangers again, scoring 1:31 later to reclaim their one-goal advantage.
Defenceman Roman Hamrlik sent a slapshot from the neutral zone that was stopped by Lundqvist, but Latendresse quickly stormed in and drove a rolling puck over the Ranger netminder.
Lundqvist stopped 19 shots, but couldn't build on his shutout performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night.
"As a team we played really well, but you can't expect to win when I let in five goals," said Lundqvist.
New York evened the contest at 9:25 of the second period after Ryan Callahan one-timed a Scott Gomez pass by Halak.
The Canadiens took their third lead of the game only 2:32 into the final period on the power play. After Tomas Plekanec won the faceoff, Markov whistled a wrist shot over the left shoulder of Lundqvist.
"We've been able to get points and wins since the start of the year without having a really good power play," said coach Guy Carbonneau. "We've worked on being a better defensive team, and that's helped us a lot."
The power-play unit continued to shine for the Canadiens as Lang converted on a five-on-three advantage 1:08 later to give Montreal a 4-2 edge.
Michal Rozsival brought the Rangers to within a goal with his seventh marker of the season, but Lang put the game away at 15:29. The Montreal winger made a nifty move around defenceman Marc Staal before roofing a shot under the crossbar.
Lang added an empty-net goal with the Canadiens short-handed.
With files from the Associated Press