The Rangers entered the home opener excited to walk the Blue Carpet and play in front of the Garden faithful
They left the refurbished house on 33rd Street seething at what transpired.
“This is another tough one,” Dan Girardi said after an all-too-familiar result, this a 2-0 loss to Montreal, at the Garden Monday night. “It’s tough.”
What angered the Rangers were two questionable calls made by referees Dave Jackson and Gord Dwyer, along with a ruling from the Toronto war room on a disputed goal.
The first call was a roughing penalty assessed to Brian Boyle with 4:04 left in the second period that directly led to Tomas Plekanec’s game-winning goal 38 seconds later. Engaged in a battle along the boards with Brendan Gallagher, Boyle was whistled for what was ostensibly a check to the head.
“It probably [looked like a high hit],” Boyle said. “[The league is] trying to take high hits out of the game. I thought I was trying to get low to the ice. He’s a smaller player. That’s the way he saw it and that’s the way it happens.”
With Boyle in the box, Plekanec corralled a Brian Gionta pass before breaking in on Henrik Lundqvist. The Canadiens center waited for Lundqvist to go down, then flipped in a slick power-play backhander for his sixth goal in 12 games.
“Wrong player, wrong place there,” said Lundqvist of the Plekanec goal.
The Rangers’ best chance to get back in the game came and went in a 21-second span of the third period, and Chris Kreider was directly involved in both plays. Kreider drew an interference call on Douglas Murray 5:16 into the period only to be called for interfering with Rafael Diaz at 5:37.
Kreider’s penalty not only ended the Rangers power play — the Blueshirts went 0-for-5 with the man advantage — but it wiped out a scoring attempt by Derick Brassard. Replays showed Diaz collided with a teammate, but the call stood to the consternation of 18,006 at The Garden.
“I talked to the refs quickly. I guess when they’re backing up, it’s their ice. I can see them coming, so I need to make some effort to get out of the way, which makes sense” said Kreider, who along with Brad Richards and Derek Stepan made up the Rangers’ best line last night. “But at the same time, obviously I was watching [Richards] or [Brassard]. So it’s on me to be aware of where they are and try to put it all together.”
From that point, Montreal milked its lead until Alex Galchenyuk’s second goal of the season salted the game away for Montreal. Following a Rangers turnover in the Montreal end, Galchenyuk and Lars Eller played give-and-go up the ice until the second-year Canadiens center deflected a pass past Lundqvist with his skate blade.
After a review, the war room in Toronto determined the goal was good. Unsurprisingly, Lundqvist had a different view of the goal.
“If that’s not a kick I don’t know what a kick is,” said Lundqvist of the Galchenyuk goal. “Seriously, there needs to be some sort of consistency in the calls. I think that’s a kick. That’s my opinion. It’s just a frustrating goal that kind of kills the whole game. It would be very interesting to hear their explanation for it just to know moving forward what the rule really is.”
While the Rangers finished with more shot attempts — 61 to 46 — than Montreal, few were dangerous. Coupled with an inability to create traffic around Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj (27 saves), the Rangers had the ingredients for their seventh loss in 10 games this season, and for the first time at the Garden in 2013-14. Losing 32 of 59 faceoffs did not aid their cause, either.
“Early we [weren’t very] good,” said Boyle, who won eight of 12 draws. “We started to get better at the end of the game. First game at home, stick going down second, our timing was off a little bit.”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter@DenisGorman.