NEW YORK (AP) — Cole Caufield scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period and Sam Montembeault made 38 saves to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Sunday.
Caufield converted a pass from captain Nick Suzuki at 8:56 of the final period for the decisive goal. Caufield leads the Canadiens with 26 goals and has scored in seven of the last eight games.
The young scorer said winning on the road — which the Canadiens hadn't done in regulation time since Dec. 6 at Seattle — was especially satisfying at Madison Square Garden.
“You have to capitalize on their mistakes and I got rewarded,'' the 22-year-old Caufield said. ”And this is the second-best place to play after the Bell Centre."
Kirby Dach also scored for Montreal, which was coming off a 2-1 loss to the Islanders on Saturday. The Canadiens have four wins in their last 16 games. They are 4-11-1 since Dec. 12.
“It was a gutsy win,'' Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said. ”Our engagement was high. We came into the game with focus. … It was a good battle. We did a pretty good job of shutting them down."
Montembeault, who also played against Islanders, denied a point-blank chance by Panarin with four minutes to go, and he made 13 saves in the third period to improve to 8-7-2 this season.
Artemi Panarin scored for the Rangers, who had won five of their last six games and had points in seven-straight, with a 5-0-2 mark. They hadn’t lost in regulation since dropping a 4-0 decision at home against Washington on Dec. 27.
“We were sort of flat. It was one of those games,'' Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”The energy level didn't look great. They got one bounce at the end and beat us 2-1."
New York is 6-2-2 in its last 10 games, and 13-3-2 since Dec. 5.
“Their goalie made some good saves. They played a pretty solid game,'' Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. "They were fast and they forechecked hard. They didn't make it easy.”
After a scoreless first, Dach notched his eighth goal at 4:54 of the second with assists to Christian Dvorak and Caufield.
Panarin tied it for New York at 16:03 of the second with his 12th goal. He leads the Rangers with 47 points, including 35 assists.
It was the fourth-straight game the Rangers failed to score on the power play.
The Rangers outshot the Canadiens 14-10 in the first. Both teams had 12 shots in the second.
St. Louis, who was part of the Rangers run the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014 and Eastern Conference Finals in 2015, won for his second straight as Canadiens coach at the Garden. St. Louis became coach of Montreal late last season.
“It's fun to win,'' he said with a laugh. ”And a great building to win in."
Montreal scratched forward Jake Evans, who was injured during Saturday’s loss to the Islanders, in addition to goaltender Jake Allen and defenceman Chris Wideman. … The Rangers scratched injured forward Chris Kreider for the second straight game and also scratched forward Ryan Carpenter and defenceman Libor Hajek. … The teams meet again March 9 in Montreal. … The Rangers won the previous meeting, 4-1 in Montreal on Jan. 5 … Forward Jake Leschyshyn, claimed on waivers from Vegas last Wednesday, made his Rangers debut.
Rangers: At Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.
Canadiens: Hosting Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
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Allan Kreda, The Associated Press