NEW YORK â€” Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens showed off their resurgent form under coach Claude Julien with a big Eastern Conference win.
Price made 26 saves and the Canadiens extended their winning streak to five games with a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday night.
Shea Weber, Artturi Lehkonen, Andrew Shaw and Jordie Benn scored for the Canadiens, who are in first place in the Atlantic Division.
Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk each had two assists for Montreal, which has won six of seven. That streak started with a shootout win over the Rangers on Feb. 21 at Madison Square Garden. That was Montreal’s first win under Julien, who took over after Michel Therrien was fired.
“It’s a matter of better execution and managing the puck a little bit better and creating a little bit more offence,” Julien said. “I thought we moved the puck fairly well tonight.”
The Canadiens swept all three meetings with the Rangers this season, and the teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs next month.
“We get excited playing here at MSG,” Galchenyuk said. “They’re a very strong team and there’s been a lot of talk about meeting in the first round. We wanted to come in here and play a strong game, and we did.”
Chris Kreider scored and Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves for the Rangers, who have lost three of their past four overall and four in a row at home.
“Right now we’ve got quite a few guys that are fighting it; there’s no doubt,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
“A couple of guys’ games are not very good, but that’s still not a reason to execute to the level that we did tonight.”
With the Rangers trailing 3-0, Lundqvist made two strong saves on Pacioretty early in the third period before the Rangers got on the board.
Kreider took a pass from Derek Stepan and scored on his own rebound for his 24th of the season at 1:44.
However, Benn restored Montreal’s three-goal lead with his third of the season at 6:58.
Leading by a goal after the first period, the Canadiens controlled the play in the early part of the second by winning battles for loose pucks.
“We were slow all over the ice, getting beat to pucks and letting them have all the plays they wanted,” Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh said.
“It was an easy game for them, we didn’t make it hard on them. When you’re a step slow against a team like that and stuck in your zone a lot, it’s pretty cut and dry who wanted it and who played better.”
Pacioretty helped the Canadiens take a 2-0 lead when he took the puck away from McDonagh along the boards and passed to Phillip Danault, who set up Lehkonen for a one-timer that beat Lundqvist stick-side for his 12th goal of the season at 8:48.
The Rangers then started getting some pressure on Price.
Pavel Buchnevich sent a pass to Rick Nash, who collided with Price with nine minutes remaining in the period. A minute later, Price made a nice save on Kevin Hayes, who came in on a break with Jimmy Vesey.
Montreal withstood the push and took a 3-0 lead late in the second.
Galchenyuk sent a pass to Shaw. Lundqvist made the initial save but couldn’t find the puck as Shaw gathered the rebound and scored on a wraparound for his 10th of the season at 18:37.
The Canadiens got off to a fast start, outshooting the Rangers 11-6 in the opening period.
Newly acquired centre Steve Ott won a faceoff in the Rangers zone. Weber then sent a wrister toward the net that deflected off Rangers defenceman Adam Clendening for Weber’s 15th goal of the season at 12:41.
NOTES: Ott and Andreas Martinsen made their debuts for the Canadiens, replacing Michael McCarron (healthy scratch) and Alexander Radulov (lower-body injury). … Michael Grabner, who leads the Rangers with 26 goals, remains day to day with a hip injury. Defenceman Kevin Klein (back) won’t travel with the team on its upcoming road trip.
Canadiens: Continue their four-game trip as they travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks on Tuesday night.
Rangers: Start a four-game road trip at Tampa Bay on Monday night.
Simmi Buttar, The Associated Press