MONTREAL (AP) — Martin St. Louis and the New York Rangers had a reason to smile in the midst of a weekend of sadness.
St. Louis, who will attend his mother’s funeral with his teammates on Sunday, scored the opening goal of the Eastern Conference finals to pace New York’s suddenly high-powered offense in a 7-2 rout of the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
New York got goals from six other players, and Henrik Lundqvist quieted talk of a Montreal jinx in a 20-save effort. It was his first victory at the Bell Centre in more than two years.
The Rangers have wrested home-ice advantage away from the Canadiens, heading into Game 2 of the series Monday night in Montreal.
“It was an emotional time for everyone, but the guys have been behind me and supported me,” said St. Louis, who received a long ovation from the crowd when he was named the game’s first star. “My teammates are behind me and supporting me, and their effort was unbelievable.
“We feel really close right now and we’re trying to keep feeding off that.”
The Rangers galvanized and drew inspiration from St. Louis after his mother’s unexpected death before Game 5 of New York’s second-round series against Pittsburgh.
The Broadway Blueshirts haven’t lost since, winning four straight — including three on the road.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said his team is trying to support St. Louis while staying focused on playing a sound team game.
“Emotionally, for us, that is something really strong right now,” Vigneault said. “I know quite a few of our guys went to the wake (on Friday), and I texted with Marty last night to make sure that everything was good.
“He’s handled it in an incredible way that probably has helped our team come closer together. (Sunday) is going to be a tough day. We need to be there to support him, and we’ll do that and get ready for Monday.”
Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Brad Richards, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash also scored for the Rangers, who had netted only four goals in their past nine visits to Montreal.
Lundqvist hadn’t played in Montreal since allowing four goals on Jan. 15, 2012. His last win there was March 17, 2009.
The quick-footed Rangers, coming off a comeback, seven-game win over Pittsburgh, jumped on a Canadiens team that was flat and mentally absent after a nasty and emotional seven-game win over top-seeded Boston.
“You don’t look at the score,” Richards said. “That’s not indicative of how anything’s going to happen in this series.
“We got fortunate. We got some bounces. We got some momentum, and pucks went in the net. It was a win, that’s all it was. We’re very aware that it’s going to be a lot different.”
Rene Bourque and Lars Eller scored for Montreal.
New York’s turnaround against Pittsburgh started when St. Louis returned to the team a day after his mother, France, died. The Rangers won the final three games of that series in rallying from a 3-1 deficit.
Playing in his hometown, St. Louis scored 4:35 into the game. He found an unguarded spot near the net and put Dominic Moore’s pass into an open side behind Carey Price, who lasted only two periods.
Price appeared to injure his right leg early in the second when Kreider slid into him after shooting wide on a breakaway. Price remained in the game, but was pulled after giving up two goals late in the second.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Price wasn’t injured, and was replaced by Peter Budaj to start the third because the team was playing so poorly in front of him.
“Good thing it’s a seven-game series and we have a chance to get back in it on Monday,” Bourque said. “I think we had a little bit of an emotional letdown after the Boston series.
“We talked about that to going into the game. Obviously, it didn’t click. We have to just forget about this game.”
The Rangers scored seven goals in a playoff game for the first time since April 17, 2007, against Atlanta (7-0), and did it on the road in the postseason for the first time since an 8-3 win at Quebec on May 8, 1995.
It was Montreal’s worst playoff defeat since losing 8-2 to Carolina in 2002.
Budaj was beaten on the first shot he faced, from the slot by McDonagh on a power play at 1:28.
The Canadiens then took a succession of penalties, including two minors and a misconduct to former Rangers forward Brandon Prust. Stepan scored and Nash broke his slump with his first in 15 playoff games this year.
“We’re all happy to see Nasher score because he’s taken a lot of heat,” Richards said. “That’s a little weight off his back.
“We won the game. When you’re in the playoffs, when it’s 7-1, no one’s jumping up and down about who scored goals.”
Montreal closed the scoring with Eller’s short-handed goal with 4:38 left.
The boost the Canadiens got from their rousing pregame ceremonies in the first two series wasn’t there as the Rangers showed all the speed and intensity in the opening period, outshooting Montreal 12-6 and taking a 2-0 lead.
Dominic Moore jumped on a loose puck after Michael Bournival partially blocked a point shot and slipped a pass to a wide open St. Louis at the doorstep to open the scoring.
Moore was the playmaker again as he slid a pass in front of the net, and the trailing Zuccarello poked it into an open side as the Rangers beat Price twice on their first five shots.
Bourque took consecutive hooking calls late in the first period, but made up for it in the second as he went hard to the net, whacked at Brian Gionta’s pass, and saw it go in off McDonagh’s stick at 12:38.
The crowd came to life but was quieted again when Stepan broke in alone and beat Price with 1:01 left.
With 12 seconds remaining in the period, Zuccarello made a reverse pass that had Price out of position for Richards to score into an open side.
NOTES: Rangers center Derick Brassard left the game early in the first period with an injury after a hit from Mike Weaver and didn’t return. Vigneault said he is day to day. … The Rangers went 3 for 7 on the power play after scoring only three times in 29 opportunities over their first 14 playoff games.
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