Entering last year's Eastern Conference Final matchup against the Montreal, one of the storylines before the series began was the Rangers inability to win at the Bell Centre.
While that wasn't the case in May, New York continued its stretch of regular season losing hockey north of the boarder, falling to the Canadiens 3-1 Saturday night, and dropping their record to 1-8-1 in their last 10 non-playoff appearances in Montreal.
The Rangers got off to a strong start to Saturday night's game, hemming Montreal deep in their own end on a number of shifts. The pressure New York applied ended with Montreal taking two penalties, and as has been the case, things went south with the Rangers on the man-advantage.
The first power play went by without consequence for either side, but with just under eight minutes to go in the period, and with Manny Malhotra in the box for the Canadiens, Montreal scored the game's first goal. Ryan McDonagh made a rare, ill-advised pinch at the blue line, springing Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec on a 2-on-none. With only Henrik Lundqvist to beat, the pair exchanged a few back-and-forth feeds before Plekanec slid it by a prone Lundqvist to make it 1-0 Montreal.
Before the first ended, though, the Rangers were able to find an equalizer. Dan Girardi took a shot from the point that Carey Price got a pad on, but Carl Hagelin pounced on the rebound, flipping it past Price to knot the score at one. Anthony Duclair picked up a secondary assist on the goal.
Montreal was the only team able to find the back of the net in the middle frame, as soft play by the Rangers in front of their own net led to the Canadiens retaking the lead. A scramble atop Lundqvist's crease saw Lars Eller find the loose puck, and get off a shot amidst a crowd of Rangers to make it 2-1.
New York had its chances in the second period, as Derick Brassard was robbed by Price on a chance coming out of the penalty box, and Marc Staal nearly eluded Price late in the closing minute, but Montreal carried a one-goal lead into the third behind strong play from its goaltender.
With the Rangers looking to find a tying goal in the third, it was the Canadiens who found the back of the net first as another Montreal player was left all alone in front. The Canadiens were able to turn defense into offense, and after Kevin Klein made a strong play to disrupt an initial chance off the rush, Pacioretty was left all alone in front, and he potted a one-time feed from below the icing line to make it 3-1.
Unlike Tuesday night's game in New Jersey, the Rangers didn't have another two-goal, third period comeback on the road in them. Price stood tall for Montreal, stopping 34 of the 35 shots he saw on the night. While neither team was dominant, Montreal was able to capitalize on a few Rangers miscues and turn them into three goals.
Alain Vigneault tinkered with his lines in the third period, even putting Martin St. Louis back at center for a few shifts, but no combination was able to find an answer, and Price helped Montreal improve to 7-1 on the season.
The Rangers will get Sunday off, and then return home to New York to face the Wild Monday night.