Rangers rally from 3 goal deficit, but fall to Habs in a shootout

NHL: New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into their Saturday night tilt with the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers remained the NHL’s best team based on percentage points but trailed the Winnipeg Jets by a single point in the overall standings.

As the two Original Six teams met for the first time in 2023-24, tonight’s contest marked the 639th meeting between the two franchises. Considering New York was 16 points ahead of their Canadian rivals in the standings, the Rangers lost 4-3 in the shootout to a scrappy Canadiens team despite recording a season-high 49 shots. Historically, it was the most shots in a game by the Rangers in Montreal all-time.

Whether New York had puck luck tonight or just made the most of their opportunities, they should have easily handled the young Canadiens. Instead, they spent too much time turning the puck over in their zone, creating unnecessary stress and forcing others to chase the play.

I think we deserved to win,” goalie Jonathan Quick said. “Their guy probably made a few saves he shouldn’t, and there’s one or two I wish I would’ve got a piece of.”

Related: Rangers need Adam Fox to regain pre-injury form

Montreal Canadiens 4 vs New York Rangers 3 (SO)

NHL: New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

In the beginning, the Canadiens registered the first couple of shots of the game before the Rangers racked up some possession time in the offensive zone, which led to the game’s first powerplay when Kaiden Guhle hauled down Mika Zibanejad at 7:23.

Despite a couple of shots on the man advantage, the Rangers didn’t look dominant 5-on-4, ending the powerplay chasing the play in their zone. Then, when the teams returned to even strength, the Canadiens tallied the game’s first goal when Brendan Gallagher sniped one over Jonathan Quick’s glove to collect his first goal in 25 games, giving the hometown crowd something to cheer for at 11:37.

Despite outshooting Montreal in the opening period, 13-7, the home team appeared hungrier for the puck, creating several Rangers turnovers leading to some chances and outhitting the visitors by a 9-6 margin.

Meanwhile, New York got a lot of their shots from a distance and only had one solid scoring chance when Barclay Goodrow tried to stuff one home, but Samuel Montembeault was quick with the pad to negate the scoring chance. During the first period, the Rangers went 8-for-13 on faceoffs and blocked four shots.

Unfortunately, while the ice was still drying to start the second period, the Canadiens came out flying, beating Quick twice before the middle frame was three minutes old. First, Sean Monahan beat a sprawling Rangers netminder after they failed to clear the zone, and the Canadiens pounced on the opportunity at just 1:09.

Then, while announcing the game’s second goal, Joel Armia fired a shot from inside the blue line that beat Quick on the ice through his legs at 2:39, giving Montreal a 3-0 lead on just nine shots.

Eventually, Alexis Lafreniere created some momentum for the Rangers, who collected a few more shots, forcing Montembeault to work for the first time in the period. Still, the sequence stopped when Chris Kreider went off for a hooking penalty at 7:38.

Despite boasting the 22nd-ranked power play, Montreal kept the pressure on the Rangers for the first 1:30 of the man advantage until Goodrow created a scoring chance down at the other end, with Lafreniere getting a couple of shots on goals in front of his hometown crowd.

Immediately following a faceoff in the Montreal end, New York kept pressing in the offensive zone, which led to Vincent Trocheck tipping home an Erik Gustafsson point shot at 10:28, with Artemi Panarin picking up a secondary assist. The helper extended Panarin’s point streak to seven games, the second-longest one of the 2023-24 season.

After a lengthy shift pinned in their zone, where everyone was on the ice for over 2:00 minutes, the Rangers kept creating chances in the opponent’s end. First, Will Cuylle got a great chance in close, followed by Adam Fox, who toe-dragged a Canadiens forward but didn’t make its way to Montembeault like most shots on the night.

When the Canadiens iced the puck at 14:29, Trocheck won the preceding faceoff, dishing the puck over to Panarin, who buried the puck past the Canadiens’ netminder, who barely flinched as the entire play took milliseconds.

Ultimately, New York looked like a completely different team after falling behind 3-0, dominating the play the rest of the second period, including getting some great looks on their second powerplay, which came at 17:02 when Nick Suzuki went off for high sticking.

After the second period, in which the Canadiens maintained a 3-2 lead, the Rangers went into the dressing room up 35-20 in shots, winning 52% of the faceoffs, collecting 12 hits, and eight blocks.

When the teams took the ice for the final period, they played end-to-end for several minutes with no whistles. Captain Jacob Trouba got New York’s best opportunity, which led to Monahan springing former first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky at the other end. Although no one scored, the teams kept creating chances without any stoppages.

However, just like earlier in the contest, the Canadiens failed to clear the zone around the period’s halfway mark, which led to Jimmy Vesey getting the puck back to the point. From there, Fox fired a seeing-eye shot from the blue line that beat Montembeault (with Cuylle battling in front) at 9:30 to register his first goal in 19 games.

After tying the contest, the teams continued to exchange chances, which led to Guhle taking his second minor penalty of the night at 13:25, giving New York a third powerplay. Although they got some great looks on the man advantage with Zibanejad hitting the post, Michael Matheson rang one off the post behind Quick at 4:04, Montreal’s best chance of the third.

Before heading to overtime, the Rangers spent the final minutes continuously turning over the puck in their zone, leading to the Canadiens getting glorious chances to win the game. However, Quick stood tall in the net with some unorthodox saves.

At the end of regulation, New York led in shots 43-29, winning 51% of the faceoffs and gaining the upper hand in hits 17-15.

In overtime, it appeared all bets were off, with each team getting opportunities to end the game with Quick making saves on odd-man rushes and Montembeault denying Panarin on the team’s best early chance of the extra period.

Eventually, the teams calmed down in the final two minutes, playing defense and limiting high-danger chances until Lafreinere almost ended it in the dying seconds off a beautiful feed from Zibanejad on a two-on-one.

Then, with just 11.1 seconds left, K’Andre Miller took a holding the stick penalty. Still, the Rangers got the best chance when Zibanejad fired a one-timer on a rush with about six seconds left, and Trouba gathered the rebound and got the game’s final shot, which Montembeault didn’t even know hit him.

In the shootout, Montreal went first, and captain Nick Suzuki failed to score on Quick, which was the same result as Panarin on Montembeault. During round two, Cole Caulfield scored one over Quick’s pad, under his glove, to take a 1-0 lead, while Montembeault turned away Zibanejad on the Peter Forsberg shootout deke attempt.

Meanwhile, Jesse Ylonen had a chance to win it in the third round but missed the net, while Lafreniere failed to score on Montembeault’s five-hole, leading the Canadiens to pick up a 4-3 win in the shootout.

I thought we had a ton of chances and the kid played really well in net,” coach Peter Laviolette stated. “It was an entertaining game, but there’s definitely some things we can clean up. Especially with turnovers.”

Rangers Notes

  • Panarin scored his 24th goal of the season and is now just nine away from his career best of 32
  • The Rangers had 49 shots on goal, surpassing the previous season high of 42 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 14, 2023
  • Quick lost for only the third time this season, giving up at least four goals for the fifth time this year

The Rangers will be off Sunday before hosting the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden on Monday, with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.

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