Rangers win first game of the season as Lafrenière scores and Shesterkin shines; beat Habs 3-1

new york rangers first round picks
Oct 16, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere (13) celebrates after scoring a goal against Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen (34) during the third period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers played their first game in Montreal for the first time since February 27, 2020. In that contest, the Blueshirts were down 2-0 before they scored five unanswered with Adam Fox getting the game-winner.

Habs fans were hyped as they celebrated the team’s home-opener. It was an electric vibe all night that ended with the Lafrenière family jumping out of their seats.

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Rangers 3 vs Canadiens 1: Lafrenière scores in homecoming

The Rangers had to shuffle the lines due to Ryan Strome being out on COVID protocols. Filip Chytil moved up to the second line, and Greg McKegg slotted in his spot. Sammy Blais also returned to the lineup and the Blueshirts need his size and toughness because this was a hard hitting affair.

Both teams came out with high energy and threw the body early and often. It was a fairly even opening stanza but Montreal had the better chances. Igor Shesterkin was very active as the Habs had two power play chances that the Rangers struggling PK killed off.

Late in the period, K’Andre Miller saved Artemi Panarin, who made a poor pass that led to a 2 on 1 that the young defender smothered. At the end of one period, the Rangers held the edge in shots 7-5, but the Habs led in hits 14-13.

The Blueshirts started the second period without Kaapo Kakko, who would not return due to an upper-body injury. He may have been injured let in the first when he got tangled up with Habs defenseman Alexander Romanov.

Kakko is considered day-to-day per Gerard Gallant.

Lafreniere Montreal
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

New York came out skating well, with Ryan Reaves drawing two penalties that the team could not convert on despite some glorious missed chances by Lafrenière, who took Kakko’s spot on the first unit. However, three times the charm because it was on their third PP that they finally broke through.

Chris Kreider scored once again, his third goal in as many games. Panarin hit Mika Zibanejad with a cross ice feed, who ripped it at the net with CK20 deflecting in front. It was his 60th career power play goal, surpassing Andy Bathgate for the 12th most PPG’s in franchise history.

Montreal came right back and put some pressure on but Shesterkin was up to the task. The biggest stop came with a flash of the glove on a Cedric Paquette deflection to keep the Rangers in front with 5:38 remaining. When the period came to an end, Shesty had 18 saves under his belt.

The third period was an all out push by the Canadiens as they get coming in waves with Shesterkin thwarting them at every turn. Montreal build momentum off a Lafrenière penalty and scored soon after it expired. Jonathan Drouin knotted it at one at the 9:24 mark and the Bell Centre was absolutely rocking.

Then just 26 seconds later the magic moment the Lafrenière family dreamed of took place. Zibanejad took a beautiful Adam Fox and came in flying and made a slick feed to Alexis, who made no mistake and restored the Rangers lead. On the replay, Laffy took a stick to the face right after he scored but he didn’t care.

“Pretty good moment to score in Montreal,” a grinning Lafrenière said. “It was really special. The building was electric tonight. I got a couple of stitches from it, but it was worth it.”

“He was with me and I missed a couple of empty nets (tonight) so I was hoping he didn’t and he didn’t,” Zibanejad said after the game. “The way he handled himself and how he played, I am super happy for him.”

From that point on it was all Shesterkin as he held the fort en route to 31 saves on 32 shots. Kevin Rooney would score the empty net goal with 10 seconds left on the clock.

Notable Rangers

  • Alexis Lafrenière was the hero with the game winning goal; he led all players with 5 shots in 16:16
  • Igor Shesterkin starred for the Blueshirts with 31 saves, 5 on the PP for a .969 SV%
  • Gerard Gallant recorded his first win as Rangers coach
  • Ryan Reaves played his best game as a Rangers drawing 2 penalties and leading team in hits with 4

Tomorrow (Sunday, Oct. 17): Practice…1:15 PM…Ford Performance Centre (Toronto)

Next Game: Monday, Oct. 18 at Toronto Maple Leafs (7:00 p.m. ET – TV: MSG, NHL Network)

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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