There was a Peter Budaj sighting in the crease for the Montreal Canadiens, and that wasn’t a very good sign as the New York Rangers had seven different goal scorers, including Rick Nash, as the New York Rangers chased (and maybe hurt) Carey Price en route to a 7-2 win in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
The day before his mother will be laid to rest in Montreal, Rangers forward Martin St. Louis got his club on the board early, taking a cross crease pass from Dominic Moore and lifting it over the outstretched pads of Price. Mats Zucarello scored a nearly identical goal, but from the other side of the crease as Ryan McDonagh made a drop pass as he was moving across the front of the net and it was 2-0 just over 6 minutes into the game.
A scary moment for Montreal fans and the team early in the second as Chris Kreider was upended on his way to the net and crashed into Price’s leg, and he immediately grabbed for his knee. He did remain in the game but looked ginger on his leg. It will be something to watch in the future to see if there is any lingering effect on his play.
The Canadiens put their best series of pressure on the Rangers over the next 10 minutes, with Henrik Lundqvist being equal to the task until Rene Bourque took a pass from Brian Gionta and whacked it from in close. It deflected off the skate of McDonagh and over Lundqvist to get the Habs within 1, although replays show there was clearly 6 Montreal players on the ice at the time, but went unnoticed by 4 officials, but not the Rangers bench who protested but to no avail.
Just when it looked like Montreal would get to the third still down by just a goal, the roof fell in. Rick Nash sent Kreider in alone and he beat Price with 1:01 left in the frame and then 39 seconds later Zuccarello carried it behind the net and instead of trying the wrap-around he threw it back out the way he came, right to Brad Richards. Price had bought the fake, and before he could get back to the short side, it was in the net, and Price looked to tweak his knee again.
Budaj was in the net to start the third, but at 4-1 was it a mercy pull or was it due to injury? After the game coach Michel Therrien said he pulled Price to “protect him”. Whether that was protection from the Rangers or protection from further damaging his leg will be the hot topic of conversation over the next couple of days in Montreal.
Budaj was greeted with some sloppy and frustrated play from his teammates that resulted in facing some serious penalty kill time. P.K. Subban made a trip to the box for high-sticking Benoit Pouliot, and McDonagh wired a shot from the top of the circle past Budaj to make it 5-1. With Max Pacioretty already off for roughing, Brandon Prust took a wild hack at Kreider while working him over in front of the Montreal net, taking 2 for slashing, 2 for unsportsmanlike conduct and adding a 1o minute misconduct for good measure.
Derek Stepan completed a great passing play on the 5 on 3, taking a pass from St. Louis and with Budaj out of position had a wide open cage.
Nash scored his first goal in 15 playoff games while still on the power play, trickling one through Budaj’s pads to cap the scoring for the Rangers and make it 7-1.
Lars Eller got a shorthanded goal with under 5 minutes left, but the result was already in the books as the Canadiens will hope Price’s knee is good to go for game 2 on Monday or it could end up being a very short series.