NEW YORK – Erik Christensen scored one of New York's three first-period goals, and the Rangers overcame a 1-for-9 effort on the power play to hang on for a 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
Defensemen Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto also scored in the first to pace the Rangers, who swarmed Montreal in the opening period with a 16-3 shot advantage and earned their third straight win — all at home.
Brad Richards pushed the lead to 4-2 in the second period for the Rangers (6-3-3), who are 3-1-1 on a six-game homestand that ends Sunday against Winnipeg.
Max Pacioretty and Andrei Kostitsyn scored in the second, and Brian Gionta added a goal with 1:10 left for Montreal, which had its four-game winning streak snapped. Gionta scored after goalie Carey Price was pulled for an extra skater, but the Canadiens (5-6-2) couldn't get the tying goal.
Ryan Callahan sealed the win with an empty-net goal.
Christensen scored the Rangers' only power-play goal 4:57 in off a perfect goal-mouth feed from Derek Stepan with New York on a 5-on-3 advantage. The Rangers started the night 23rd in the NHL on power-play efficiency.
Girardi made it 2-0 with his second goal of the season, putting a shot past Price off a pass from Artem Anisimov, who had two assists. Del Zotto put the Rangers up 3-0 on a pretty backhand, set up by Anisimov and Stepan.
Montreal outshot the Rangers 13-6 in the second and hit the post twice and the crossbar once. Less than a minute after Erik Cole hit the post to the left of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Richards put New York up 4-2 by beating Price with a wrist shot at 18:50.
Price had allowed just five goals during Montreal's four-game winning streak, which began after the Canadiens fired assistant coach Perry Pearn on Oct. 26. Montreal's 1-5-2 start was its worst since the 1941-42 season.
Montreal's rare visit to New York on a Saturday night — the third since 1964 — marked the return of Rangers agitator Sean Avery, who was sent to the minors by coach John Tortorella days before the season.
Avery was recalled from Connecticut of the AHL earlier this week to replace forward Wojtek Wolski, who was out with a groin injury. Fans at Madison Square Garden had been clamoring for Avery's return and gave him a rousing cheer when he made his first appearance midway through the first. He played sparingly in his first NHL game this season.
The Rangers improved to 130-89-31 with Avery in the lineup since he was acquired from Los Angeles on Feb. 5, 2007.
New York was also without forward Mike Rupp, who will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee next week. In addition, the Rangers were forced to play with just five defensemen after Michael Sauer was ejected 4:18 in following a fight with Petteri Nokelainen, who was also given a game misconduct.
The win was the 100th as Rangers coach for Tortorella, who replaced Tom Renney on Feb. 23, 2009.
NOTES: The Canadiens have played the Rangers in New York on Saturday only 11 times in 303 overall visits. The teams have met 194 times in New York on Sunday. The Canadiens' 2-1 win on Friday at Ottawa marked Montreal's 6,200th game in franchise history, dating to a 7-6 win over the Cobalt Silver Kings on Jan. 5, 1910. ... The Rangers are 10 wins shy of 2,500. ... The Rangers signed D Anton Stralman.