NEW YORK – Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Brian Boyle scored 1:07 apart in the Rangers' highest-scoring first period in more than 11 years, and New York then held on for a key 6-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on a feisty Friday night.
The Rangers and Canadiens, fighting for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference with about three weeks left in the season, staged a postseason-like show at boisterous Madison Square Garden that held large pockets of vocal, enthusiastic Montreal fans.
They were disappointed early and often as the Rangers took control. New York, in seventh place, moved within five points of sixth-place Montreal with 10 games left for both teams. More importantly, the Rangers are four points ahead of Buffalo and Carolina.
On the opening faceoff, New York's Brandon Prust and Montreal's Travis Moen immediately dropped their gloves after a brief discussion and began throwing haymakers.
That merely set the stage for the Rangers' five-goal first period.
Artem Anisimov scored on a breakaway at 5:28, but Montreal tied it 1:43 later when defenseman P.K. Subban answered. After that, it was all New York.
Dan Girardi started the barrage with 9:35 left with a rebound goal. Callahan made it 3-1 with 2:51 remaining, Gaborik followed 32 seconds later, and Boyle closed the spurt with 1:44 to go, sending beleaguered goalie Carey Price to the bench after he faced only 12 shots.
Henrik Lundqvist held off the Canadiens late and finished with 22 saves to reach 30 wins for the sixth straight season. Lundqvist was bowled over by Benoit Pouliot with 3:39 left, taking a forearm to the head, but remained in and helped New York win for the fifth time in six games.
Vinny Prospal scored on the ensuing power play to make it 6-3 with 2:45 remaining.
The five goals in the first made it the Rangers' highest-scoring period since they netted six in the second on March 17, 2007, against Boston. New York hadn't scored as many as five in the first since notching six against Los Angeles on Dec. 15, 1999.
The Rangers managed to salvage one win in the season series with Montreal after dropping the first three and scoring a total of three goals in those losses. New York has found the home mojo it has been searching for all season. The Rangers have won three straight at the Garden by a combined score of 19-6, improving their home mark to 17-16-3.
Former Rangers goalie Alex Auld gave the Canadiens a chance for a comeback, stopping 18 of 19 shots after replacing Price, who beat Tampa Bay at home in a shootout on Thursday.
The tide turned in the Rangers' favor on Callahan's flukey goal that made it 2-1. Callahan smacked the puck in front off of Canadiens captain Brian Gionta. The puck popped up in the air, struck Montreal defenseman James Wisniewski in the back and bounded over Price and just over the goal line. It landed on edge with just enough white ice showing for the goal to be confirmed by video replay.
Montreal chipped away on Wisniewski's fourth goal 4:13 into the second and Gionta's tip-in of a shot by Wisniewski during a power play 54 seconds into the third that made it 5-3.
Notes: The Rangers hadn't scored five goals in a period against the Canadiens since the second on Jan. 10, 1986. ... LW Sean Avery was scratched from the Rangers' lineup for the second time in three games. Avery was called for three penalties, including one for roughing, late in New York's win over the Islanders on Tuesday. Wojtek Wolski took his place after a one-game benching. ... Montreal D Hal Gill missed his second straight game due to illness. Forwards Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern also sat out for the second night in a row because of injuries sustained this week. ... With many fans decked out in red — including some in head-to-toe body suits — in support of the Canadiens, chants of "Let's Go Habs!" broke out after pregame warmups.