The Montreal Canadiens have led a charmed existence since the postseason began. That's not to say that haven't been good, because they certainly have, but they've also been fortunate in a lot of ways. Every single break went their way versus the Tampa Bay Lightning, which is just about the only way one team sweeps another in today's NHL, what with all that parity.
And in round 2, while they beat Boston fair and square, those 13 posts the Bruins hit probably helped. Carey Price sat atop the throne heading into the Eastern Conference, of that there's no question, but the constant clanging behind him in that series made it perfectly clear that it was an iron throne.
All of this is to say that, after two rounds, the Habs were due for a stinker, and in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals versus the New York Rangers, they got one, dropping the opener by a score of 7-2.
This one was never close. The Rangers stormed the Montreal zone from puck drop, and four minutes in, they got the all-important first goal, as Martin St. Louis took a beautiful pass from Dominic Moore and put one past Price.
Then, before the Canadiens could really regroup, the Rangers got another, thanks to another nifty pass from Moore. Price came close to stopping it, poking the puck away from Ryan McDonagh, but unfortunately, he poked it right to Mats Zuccarrello, who made it 2-0.
In the second period, things took a turn into nightmare territory, as Chris Kreider poked a puck past Alexei Emelin, then barreled in on Carey Price before losing an edge and barreling into Carey Price, who appeared to take the brunt of the collision on his right knee.
He stayed down for a time, briefly attended to by the Canadiens' team doctor, but he would remain in the game.
The Canadiens breathed a sigh of relief, and they likely breathed another when Rene Bourque cut the lead in half midway through the middle frame, but that was the only positive stretch for the bleu, blanc et rouge in this game. In the final minute of the period, Krieder and Brad Richards poured two more past Price to make it 4-1 heading into the intermission.
When the Canadiens hit the ice for the third period, they were a different team. Price wasn't with them, for one thing, and that's more concerning than anything else that took place in this game. Was this Michel Therrien simply looking at the scoreboard and opting to give his starter a break? Montreal fans can only hope, because the other option is that Price suffered an injury on the Kreider play.
Either way, he sat, and the Canadiens came unglued without him, taking a series of penalties and, worse, allowing the Rangers' powerplay to find itself. Peter Budaj relieved Price, immediately underscoring the value of Montreal's starter, as he was beaten for three powerplay goals in the next five minutes.
The last of those was Rick Nash's first playoff goal, as if Montreal hadn't already done enough to give the Rangers confidence coming out of the series opener.
The final horn couldn't come soon enough for the Canadiens, and neither can Game 2, when they have an opportunity to put this utter debacle behind them.