Rick Nash may be even more important than we thought.
Without their superstar left wing for the first time this season due to an undisclosed injury, the Rangers were listless throughout a 3-1 loss to the Canadiens Tuesday night at the Garden.
“I thought it was probably one of the worst hockey games I’ve ever been involved in. Both teams. But they were better than we were,” head coach John Tortorella said. “It was two bad teams playing and we were worse than they were.
“Pretty much sums it up, huh?”
The Rangers announced prior to Tortorella’s pregame press conference that Nash would miss the game. Tortorella did not offer an update on the wing’s condition, other to say it offered other players an “opportunity” to play.
The Rangers were unable to generate their forecheck and finished with just 25 shots.
“We had to try to create energy and manufacture it, but the way they were clogging up the neutral zone sometimes it was tough,” Brad Richards said. “You don’t get a lot of pace. They take the pace out of the game. We talked about it. Obviously they capitalized.”
Much of the game was played on the perimeter as both teams clogged the middle of the ice. Montreal finished with 18 shots. Alex Galchenyuk's goalmouth poke 1:48 into the third was the game-winner. Max Pacioretty and Rafael Diaz also scored for Montreal. Carey Price made 24 saves.
“They were pretty good,” Brian Boyle said. “[They] played pretty conservative so it’s just that we didn’t want to let them lull us to sleep. If it’s not going the way you draw it up, it’s tough. You don’t want to get frustrated. You’ve got to bring it to another level. We just weren’t where we needed to be, I guess.”
Anton Stralman opened the scoring 12:29 into the second period by popping a rebound over Price’s pad.
However the lead lasted for all of 6:16. Pacioretty tied the game at 18:45 with a slap shot that eluded a screened Henrik Lundqvist (17 saves).
The goaltender’s defense failed him on Galchenyuk’s game-winner. Brandon Prust carried the puck below the hashmark and threw a diagonal, cross-ice feed to Galchenyuk as Lars Eller stood at the side of the net without a Blueshirt in sight.
“It was a good play by Prustie,” Galchenyuk, the third-overall pick in last June’s entry draft said. “It happened quick. I just tried to put a puck in the net.”
In the first game against his former team, Prust finished with an assist and plus-3 rating in 16:26 of ice time.
“[Prust] is a gamer. We like him a lot and it was a special game for him,” Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien said. “I thought he was a real warrior out there.”
Lundqvist experienced a scare midway through the second period when he was struck high with a P.K. Subban slapshot. The goaltender shook his arm in an attempt to get getting back into it. He stayed in the game.
“It hit me on the shoulder,” Lundqvist said. “It usually takes a couple minutes for it to go back to normal. It’s fine.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.