The Montreal Canadiens hope to regroup after a humiliating defeat in the opener of the Eastern Conference finals when they host the New York Rangers in Monday's Game 2 battle from the Bell Centre.
The Rangers, who were down 3-1 to Pittsburgh in the conference semifinals before rallying for the series win, posted their fourth straight victory Saturday with a 7-2 trouncing of the Habs.
This is the 15th all-time playoff series between these Original Six foes, but Saturday's rout marked New York's largest margin of victory against Montreal in a postseason game. The seven goals also set a playoff record for the Rangers against the Habs, who had allowed six goals to New York twice before in the playoffs (Game 4, 1972 quarterfinals; Game 4, 1974 quarterfinals).
With the lopsided road victory, New York also became the first team to score at least seven goals in Game 1 of a conference final since Chicago posted an 8-2 win over Edmonton in the 1992 Campbell Conference series.
Ryan McDonagh led New York's scoring blitz with a goal and three assists, with Mats Zuccarello tallying once and adding two helpers to help make Henrik Lundqvist's first win in Montreal since 2009 a rather effortless one.
Even the previously slumping Rick Nash got into the act for the Rangers, potting his first goal of these playoffs while also contributing an assist.
Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis finished with a goal and an assist as well. Lundqvist, 0-3-1 with a 4.63 goals against average in his last four starts at Bell Centre, needed to make just 20 saves to end his recent struggles at the venue.
"I haven't won too many games in this building, so it's good to get a great start," said Lundqvist afterward. "They have a lot of speed, but our defenders blocked key shots. We played a smart game."
Carey Price's afternoon wasn't as effective, as Montreal's standout goaltender was pulled after two periods after saving only 16-of-20 attempts. The Rangers then scored three times on eight chances against backup Peter Budaj in the third.
Price appeared to be shaken up after getting run into by Kreider in the second period, and although Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien initially said he pulled the goaltender to try and rally his team, there is a chance he won't be able to play in Game 2. Price, who is believed to be suffering from a lower- body injury, skipped practice on Sunday and did not participate in the morning skate on Monday. Therrien did not comment on Price's status for Game 2.
Lars Eller had a goal and an assist in the loss, the Canadiens' most lopsided one since an 8-2 setback to Carolina in Game 6 of the 2002 East semifinals.
Rene Bourque also scored for a Montreal squad that will attempt to bounce back Monday before the series shifts to New York for Games 3 and 4. Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
"We'll put that game behind us now and move forward, but that's a good lesson," Therrien remarked.
Price entered the matchup with the superior head-to-head numbers between the star netminders, having stopped 74-of-75 shots in two wins over New York during the regular season and pitching a shutout opposite Lundqvist in leading Canada to victory in the gold medal game of the Sochi Olympics. However, Saturday's matchup told a different story, as New York appeared to be the faster and sharper in all aspects of the game.
"We weren't ready for this game," said a frustrated Therrien. "There were offensive errors and some defensive errors as well. "We were not sharp. We weren't ready mentally or physically to compete in this game, and that's the result that you saw."
The Rangers improved to 8-2-0 in these playoffs when scoring first, while Montreal is 1-4-0 when allowing the initial goal.
It wasn't all good news for New York, however, as the club lost forward Derick Brassard early in the first period after taking a hard hit from Montreal defenseman Mike Weaver. Brassard only played two shifts for 35 seconds of ice time before leaving the game for good.
Fourth-line center Dominic Moore was pressed into an increased role following the injury, but Brassard hopes he can return for Game 2.
"It's nothing serious, I'm day-to-day," said Brassard. "Hopefully I'll be ready to play on Monday."
In other news for New York, the entire Rangers team spent Sunday's off day attending the funeral of St. Louis' mother, France, who died of a heart attack on May 8.
"It was good for us to be there for him, so today was a lot less about hockey and a lot more about being there for (Marty) and his family," said Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.
This best-of-seven series is the first postseason encounter between these Original Six rivals since the opening round of the 1996 playoffs when New York won in six games. The clubs have played 14 playoff series and each club has won seven times, although Montreal earned the biggest victory when it beat the Rangers in the 1979 Cup Finals.
Both teams are attempting to get back to the Cup Finals for the first time since the 1990s. Montreal was the last team based in Canada to win it all in 1993, but has yet to return to the Cup Finals, and the Rangers are aiming to get back to the final stage for the first time since winning their last championship in 1994.