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Montreal — Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves and Martin St. Louis scored in the second period and the New York Rangers earned a 3-1 victory over the Carey Price-less Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
The Rangers lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final 2-0 heading back to New York for Game 3 on Thursday and Game 4 on Sunday.
St. Louis scored a day after he and his teammates attended the funeral of his mother, who died just before Mother’s Day. The Rangers have rallied around the grieving veteran and have won five in a row.
New York’s Rick Nash also scored while Ryan McDonagh added a goal and an assist to give the defenseman six points in the opening two games of the series.
Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal, which outshot New York 41-30.
“It’s been an emotional weekend,” St. Louis said. “I’ll definitely never forget this weekend for many reasons, but I think the grieving process will still take a while.
“But that stuff is behind me. Tonight, we wanted to make sure we’d have the emotion we’d need to win this game because we knew they would come out hard, especially rallying, losing their best player, so I though we answered.”
The Canadiens had Dustin Tokarski playing his first career NHL playoff game in goal in place of Price, the Olympic gold medalist who hurt his right knee in the series opener when Chris Kreider crashed into the net.
“It was a lot of fun,” Tokarski said. “There was a lot of adrenaline. You grow up as a kid wanting to play in the playoffs, and I got the opportunity and just came up a bit short.”
Coach Michel Therrien said he opted for Tokarski over regular backup Peter Budaj because of the youngster’s record of winning championships at the junior and AHL levels.
“He’s a winner,” Therrien said. “I thought he played well. We talked to Peter and he reacted as a pro. He’s a good teammate.”
At the other end, Therrien said Lundqvist was the difference.
“I thought we played well, but the only reason we lost was Lundqvist. He stole that game,” Therrien said.
The Canadiens rebounded from a 7-2 thumping in the opener with one of their better games of the playoffs, but Lundqvist had a nearly flawless game.
Montreal’s worst fears were realized in the first period, which it dominated while falling behind 2-1.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault also gave credit to Lundqvist.
“He’s the only reason we were still in the game,” he said. “They had total control of the pressure.
“A lucky bounce changed the dynamics of the game.”
A long period of sustained pressure produced the first goal as Lundqvist’s clearing attempt went off Pacioretty’s skate and into the net at 6:14.
But 17 seconds later, New York tied it as McDonagh swiped a puck toward the net from the point and saw it go in off Josh Gorges’ leg and the post.
The crowd was booing Kreider when he sent a pass across to the right side and Nash’s one-timer went in off the midsection of Tokarski, who was late getting across at 18:58 of the first. It was the second goal in as many games and second of the playoffs for Nash.
Tokarski had no chance as St. Louis wired a shot from the slot on a power play inside the post at 8:03 of the middle period.
The Rangers played a thorough defensive game in the third to prevent a comeback.
“The Canadiens were coming wave after wave in the first period,” St. Louis said. “If it wasn’t for Lundqvist, there might have been a different result after the first.
“He gave us time to find our legs. The goal by Mac was a big one. It calmed everyone down and allowed us to regroup.”
• Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk returned from an injury to see his first playoff action for Montreal, replacing Michael Bournival. ... New York forward Derick Brassard, who suffered a suspected shoulder injury in Game 1, was replaced by Dan Carcillo. ... Price was photographed at the Bell Centre with a brace on his right knee. ... Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended the game.