NEW YORK, N.Y. - The Rangers' are having lots of trouble cashing in on the power play, but it hasn't kept them from piling up some wins.
New York scored three goals in the first period and overcame a dismal 1-for-9 performance on the power play in a 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night. The Rangers have won three straight, all at home.
New playmaking centre Brad Richards, who scored the winning goal late in the second period, is confident that New York will get things going when it has a man advantage.
"This group has been taught that if you just take care of a couple of details at the right time—like a blocked shot or getting the puck out of the zone—you'll get through it," said Richards, who signed a nine-year, US$60 million deal this summer. "We've found ways to do that this year, and it's equaled wins."
Erik Christensen and defencemen Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto scored in the first period to pace the Rangers, who swarmed Montreal in the opening period with a 16-3 shot advantage.
Richards made it 4-2 late in the second for the Rangers (6-3-3), who are 3-1-1 on a six-game homestand that ends Sunday against Winnipeg.
Max Pacioretty and Andrei Kostitsyn scored in the second, and Brian Gionta added a goal with 1:10 left for Montreal, which had its four-game winning streak snapped. Gionta scored after goalie Carey Price was pulled for an extra skater, but the Canadiens (5-6-2) couldn't get the tying goal.
Ryan Callahan sealed the win with an empty-net goal.
Rangers coach John Tortorella, who recorded his 100th win behind the New York bench, attributed the victory to his team's relentless work ethic.
"Getting up 3-0 is not as easy lead," said Tortorella, who took over for Tom Renney in February 2009, but has yet to guide the Rangers past the first round of the playoffs. "It was one of those games where you're scratching and clawing and trying to find a way to get it done. To come away up two going into the third period was important."
Christensen scored the Rangers' only power-play goal 4:57 in off a perfect goal-mouth feed from Derek Stepan with New York on a 5-on-3 advantage. The Rangers started the night 23rd in the NHL on power-play efficiency.
Girardi made it 2-0 with his second goal of the season, putting a shot past Price off a pass from Artem Anisimov, who had two assists. Del Zotto put the Rangers up 3-0 on a pretty backhand, set up by Anisimov and Stepan.
"You can see the chemistry the team has. We're all sticking up for each other," the 21-year-old Del Zotto said. "I know we are all happy to be back with our fans on our side to add some energy and some emotion."
Montreal outshot the Rangers 13-6 in the second, hit the post twice and the crossbar once. Less than a minute after Erik Cole struck the post to the left of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Richards put New York up 4-2 by beating Price with a wrist shot at 18:50.
Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said the reason his team lost was simple.
"It's hard to win a hockey game when you are in the penalty box," he said. "I thought we had a strong second period with a goal early in that gave us some momentum. That (Richards goal) was the probably the key."
Price had allowed just five goals during Montreal's four-game winning streak, which began after the Canadiens fired assistant coach Perry Pearn on Oct. 26. Montreal's 1-5-2 start was its worst since the 1941-42 season.
Montreal's rare visit to New York on a Saturday night—its third since 1964—marked the return of Rangers agitator Sean Avery, who was sent to the minors by Tortorella days before the season began.
Avery was recalled from Connecticut of the AHL earlier this week to replace forward Wojtek Wolski, who was out with a groin injury. Fans at Madison Square Garden had been clamouring for Avery's return and gave him a rousing cheer when he made his first appearance midway through the first.
Avery had only seven shifts, totalling 4:46 of ice time, in his first NHL game this season. The Rangers improved to 130-89-31 with him in the lineup since he was acquired from Los Angeles on Feb. 5, 2007.
New York was also without forward Mike Rupp, who will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee next week. In addition, the Rangers were forced to play with just five defencemen after Michael Sauer was ejected 4:18 in following a fight with Petteri Nokelainen, who was also given a game misconduct.
NOTES: The Rangers are 8-3 in their last 11 home games against the Canadiens. The Canadiens have played the Rangers in New York on Saturday only 11 times in 303 overall visits. The teams have met 194 times in New York on Sunday. The Canadiens' 2-1 win on Friday at Ottawa marked Montreal's 6,200th game in franchise history, dating to a 7-6 win over the Cobalt Silver Kings on Jan. 5, 1910. ... The Rangers are 10 wins shy of 2,500. ... New York signed free agent defenceman Anton Stralman.