NEW YORK â€” Canadiens coach Claude Julien will happily take the result of his team’s efforts.
“I thought it was a really good road game. It wasn’t mistake-free and no games are,” said Julien after the Canadiens’ 3-1 win over the New York Rangers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series on Sunday.
“I thought our guys were really focused from start to finish. I thought we did a good job defensively and offensively, but also our special teams were very good tonight too.”
Montreal leads the best-of-seven set 2-1. Game 4 is Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
“All the guys did a great job,” said Shea Weber who, along with Artturi Lehkonen, scored power-play goals for the Canadiens. Alexander Radulov added a spectacular even-strength goal late in the third. Carey Price made 20 saves.
Despite a strong 26-save performance from Henrik Lundqvist, New York dropped its second straight in the series, and its sixth straight playoff home game.
In that stretch, dating back to Game 2 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final, New York has been outscored by an aggregate 20-4 at Madison Square Garden. New York’s 21-16-4 home record in the regular season was the worst of all 16 teams in the playoffs.
Brady Skjei’s goal at 17:04 of the third was New York’s lone goal and ruined Price’s shutout bid.
It took 37:37 spanning the first and second periods for either goaltender to be solved. When the ice was broken, it was Lehkonen one-timing a goal-line feed Brendan Gallagher for a power-play goal. It was Lehkonen’s first in the playoffs, and his third in three career games against New York.
“He’s one of those people who’s been through a lot in his career,” Julien said of the rookie left winger. “Not too much phases him.”
Until Lehkonen’s goal, the game was almost a virtual replay of Games 1-2. In that the Canadiens forced the Rangers into playing a style of hockey that they are not built for. At their best, the Rangers play a quick puck movement, up-tempo, pressuring style of hockey.
Through much of the first two games and essentially all of Game 3, Montreal forced New York into neutral zone dumps, most of which were cleared with ease. In doing so, the Canadiens limited New York to 21 shots. By comparison, Montreal was credited with 29 shots on goal.
“They’re playing very well defensively,” said New York coach Alain Vigneault, who added that the Rangers’ fourth line of Tanner Glass, Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg has been his best forward combination.
Weber’s power-play goal 7:42 into the third period decided the game. Weber one-timed a feed from Alex Galchenyuk past Lundqvist to finish off a sequence that began with Jeff Petry knocking the puck off of Rick Nash’s stick in the defensive zone to start the counter-attack.
Montreal finished the game 2 for 3 on the man advantage while killing all three New York power plays.
“We’re definitely fighting it a little bit,” New York defenceman Ryan McDonagh said. “We are maybe looking to extend our plays a little bit and it’s costing us scoring opportunities.”
Radulov’s forehand-backhand goal with 4:25 left increased Montreal’s lead to 3-0. The right winger held off New York centre Kevin Hayes as he barreled down the slot, then flipped in his second of these playoffs, and his seventh career playoff goal.
“(Hayes) was on me and I kind of saw Lundqvist moving with me,” Radulov said. “Just pulled it back and he went there so it’s good.”
Skjei’s goal ended the scoring. It was his first career goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Denis P. Gorman, The Canadian Press