MONTREAL — At first, it seemed the Canadiens had dodged the worst, but in truth, Carey Price was just delaying the devastation.
After Rangers center Chris Kreider slid into him in Game 1 after getting tripped on a breakaway, the Canadiens goaltender skated around, shook off the injury and stayed in the game. But that sign of progress just put off the pain — for Price and the Canadiens.
In a somber, defeated tone Monday, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien dropped the news that would have a resounding ripple effect on the rest of the Eastern Conference finals and possibly the Stanley Cup Final — Price was done for the series and perhaps the rest of the playoffs.
Therrien said there was a chance the Canadian gold-medal winner could return for the final, but the Canadiens tried to move on in Game 2 without him by turning to 24-year-old Dustin Tokarski, who had played in only 10 NHL games over Peter Budaj, who replaced Price in Game 1.
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But the Rangers got to Tokarski early and had enough firepower to overcome the fired-up Canadiens and a bloodthirsty crowd at the Bell Centre for a 3-1 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series with Game 3 in New York on Thursday.
“We’re not out of it,” Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said. “We’re going to go to New York and fight for our lives.”
The emotion of the night sparked the Canadiens to strike first. Max Pacioretty slapped home a loose puck in front of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead at 6 minutes, 14 seconds.
But while the Bell Centre was in delirium and the public-address announcer was providing details of Pacioretty’s goal, the Rangers answered just 14 seconds later. Ryan McDonagh took a shot from the left wing that deflected off Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges, off the left post and into the net. It was only the second shot the Rangers had put on Tokarski up to that point, though it was a shot most goalies would have had a tough time corralling.
That wasn’t the case with the Rangers’ second goal. On an odd-man rush, Kreider, who was booed every time he touched the puck, passed to Rick Nash. Nash one-timed the puck past Tokarski, who missed it with his glove.
The Rangers kept applying the pressure on Tokarski in the second while tightening up their defense. Martin St. Louis continued his strong play in the playoffs scoring his fifth goal on a one-timer from the slot after pretty puck movement on the power play.
Speed seemed to be the operative word for the Rangers against Tokarski. They made it a mission to confuse Tokarski with swift passes and even quicker shots. The strategy worked. And now they are in position to run away with the series.
• Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw is questionable for Wednesday’s Game 2 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings because of an apparent right leg injury.