NEW YORK (AP) Alexander Radulov and the Montreal Canadiens have gone from facing a giant hole to holding the momentum in their first-round matchup with the New York Rangers.
Radulov had a goal and an assist to lead the Canadiens to a 3-1 victory over the Rangers on Sunday night, giving Montreal a 2-1 lead in the series.
Artturi Lehkonen and Shea Weber scored power-play goals for Montreal, and Carey Price stopped 20 shots.
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”I thought we were very focused from start to finish,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. ”We did a great job defensively, offensively. Also our special teams was very good tonight, two power-play goals scored coupled with the penalty killing.
”We can’t afford any weak links and we didn’t have any tonight.”
Brady Skjei spoiled Price’s shutout bid with 2:56 remaining for his first career playoff goal.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, coming off a playoff career-high 54 saves in Game 2, stopped 26 shots in this one.
”It’s important we start with ourselves and not look at what they are doing,” Lundqvist said after the Rangers’ sixth straight home loss in the postseason. “We have to give more at home, in the playoffs, or we aren’t going to win. We need more – it’s as simple as that.”
Game 4 is Tuesday night.
Radulov, who got the overtime winner in Game 2 on Friday night after Tomas Plekanec tied it with 18 seconds left in regulation, has two goals and three assists in the past two games. After nearly falling into an 0-2 hole, the Canadiens now have the series lead.
”It’s good but … it’s a best-of-seven series,” Radulov said. ”There can be four more games. We can enjoy the moment tonight then get ready for the next one. There’s nothing done yet. … They’re going to come out hard again, so we have to play the same way but with more effort and play good as a team.”
With Montreal leading 1-0, the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello was whistled for a double-minor for high-sticking 4:07 into the third.
The Canadiens took advantage 3 1/2 minutes later with their second power-play goal of the game. Weber got a pass from Alex Galchenyuk in the left circle and fired it past a sprawled Lundqvist at 7:42.
Radulov made it 3-0 with some nice stickhandling, dumping the puck past Lundqvist with 4:25 left.
New York pulled Lundqvist for an extra attacker with more than four minutes to go, and Skjei finally broke through.
With the Rangers’ J.T. Miller off on a delay of game penalty for a faceoff infraction late in the second period, the Canadiens started pressing on their first power play of the game. Lundqvist made a succession of saves in close with 2 1/2 minutes to go, stopping Lehkonen twice and then Plekanec once.
Montreal broke through when, off a faceoff to Lundqvist’s right, Lehkonen got a pass from Brendan Gallagher and fired the puck over Lundqvist’s left shoulder with 2:23 left in the period for his first career postseason goal.
It was the first power-play goal of the series. Both teams were 0 for 7 through the first two games, and the Rangers finished 0 for 3 in this game.
”We’re definitely fighting it a little bit, to say the least,” New York captain Ryan McDonagh said. ”If it’s not going well, we really need to simplify here, make one or two passes and look to get it to the net. We are maybe looking to extend our plays a little bit too much, and it’s costing us scoring opportunities.”
The Rangers’ best chance early came when Oscar Lindberg’s shot beat Price but rang off the right post about 6 1/2 minutes into the first period. Price also made a nice glove save on Michael Grabner 2 1/2 minutes later.
Price made a stop on an in-close attempt by Kevin Hayes with about three minutes remaining in the first and then a diving save on a backhand follow by Rick Nash seconds later.
NOTES: Lundqvist appeared in his 119th playoff game, tying Dominik Hasek and Tom Barrasso for 10th place on the league’s all-time list for goalies. … Rangers D Kevin Klein played after sitting out the first two games of the series. Klein missed 16 straight games due to an injury before playing in six of the last seven to close the regular season. … D Andrei Markov appeared in his 86th playoff game, tying Yvon Lambert, Bert Olmstead and Peter Mahovlich for 40th place on the franchise list. Plekanec appeared in his 84th, tying Chris Nilan for 43rd. … Canadiens D Brandon Davidson appeared in his first playoff game. … Canadiens coach Claude Julien tied Alain Vigneault and Fred Shero for 14th place on NHL playoff coaching wins list at 63.
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