NEW YORK – The New York Rangers are heading to the second round as they defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 and win the series 4 games to 2. The Rangers will now have some much needed days off to regroup and rest before they find out who they play; it will either be Boston or Ottawa. The Rangers have posted a 13-4 record in the last 17 contests which were either Game 6 or Game 7 of a playoff series, dating back to the start of the 2012 Playoffs.
It was a sloppy start for the Rangers and the Canadiens were pushing hard in which you expected them to do so. The Blueshirts only registered five shots in the opening period and were down 1-0. It was a whole different team that came out in period two, but then again we have seen it in this series; a slow start followed by a strong finish. The Rangers tilted the ice in period two and finally scored on the power play. It was Mats Zuccarello who scored both goals in the second period to give the Rangers the 2-1 lead.
The Garden was buzzing as it was prior to the face-off and the third period was more of the same from the Rangers. As they did in the previous two games they continued to push instead of sit back on the lead. A player who we haven’t seen production from was able to put the game away via the empty net and it was Derek Stepan.
The Rangers have won more playoff series (nine) and have played more playoff series (16) against the Canadiens than against any other opponent in their 90-season history. Mats Zuccarello posted his first career multi-goal game in the playoffs, tallied a power play goal, recorded the game-winning goal, and posted a plus-one rating. Zuccarello leads the Rangers in goals in the 2017 Playoffs (three), and he has registered three goals/points in the last five games.
The head coach Alain Vigneault when asked about seeing his team win three straight, “Without a doubt, a lot of focus and a lot of character. We didn’t play real well in Game 3 and after playing I thought pretty good in Montreal and coming 17 seconds from having a 2-0 lead, then it was 1-1 and we didn’t play real well. Our guys responded. They responded by playing hard and playing the right way. You have to give credit to Montreal, they came at us hard and they competed real hard. At the end of the day it was a hard-fought series. Our goaltender made some timely saves.”
Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves, and stopped all 17 shots he faced over the final two periods, to earn his 59th career NHL playoff win. Lundqvist is the Rangers’ all-time leader in playoff appearances (122) and playoff wins (59), and he also leads all active NHL goaltenders in playoff appearances and playoff wins. Since the start of the 2012 Playoffs, Lundqvist has posted a 9-3 record, along with a 1.53 GAA, a .947 SV%, and 2 SO in 13 appearances in which the Rangers have had a chance to close out a playoff series.
Lundqvist went on to talk about how the series win meant for him, “It means a lot. We put a lot of effort into every game here. It’s not done until you put that last puck in. It was a series of two teams that didn’t give much. Price was playing really well and we didn’t get anything for free. The message going into this game was it’s not going to be handed to us in any way. We had to work really hard until the end to get it done. It’s just exciting and a great feeling to do it in front of our fans. That excitement when the puck goes in, you’re moving on. It’s been pretty intense the last few days but it’s all worth it.”
The Rangers answered the task of putting together strong performances after a bad game 2 at Madison Square Garden and now will be rewarded with some days off before they prepare for round two on their opponent to be determined. Based on what we have seen from the Rangers over the last three games, they have the talent and speed to beat either Boston or Ottawa but certainly need to fix a few parts to their game. The power play finally got a goal and Vigneault touched on that prior to the game saying the power play was “due” and it certainly answered and must continue to do so moving forward.
Following tonight’s win, the Rangers have now won 15 of their last 18 playoff games at MSG in which they have had a chance to close out a series, dating back to the Patrick Division Finals against Washington in 1986. New York has also won seven of eight such contests at MSG since the start of the 2012 Playoffs, as well as eight of 10 such games at MSG since the start of the 2007 Playoffs.
Since the NHL began to track hits in 1997-98, the Rangers’ 285 hits in the First Round against Montreal in 2017 are the second-most hits the team has recorded in any playoff series (the most was 287 in Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington in 2013).
Alain Vigneault has now won six playoff series as the Rangers’ Head Coach, and he passed Emile Francis for sole possession of second place among Rangers head coaches in career playoff series wins. In addition, Vigneault has now earned more series wins in best-of-seven series than any other head coach in franchise history. The only head coach who has earned more series wins with the Rangers than Vigneault (regardless of the series format) is Lester Patrick (14). Vigneault has earned 29 career playoff wins as the Rangers’ Head Coach, and he only trails Francis (34) and Patrick (32) in career playoff wins among head coaches in franchise history. Vigneault also earned his 66th career playoff win as an NHL head coach in tonight’s contest, tying Lindy Ruff for 13th place on the NHL’s all-time playoff wins list among head coaches.