Fast starts lifts Rangers over Habs

(Reuters) - The New York Rangers scored three goals in a penalty-filled first period and hung on for a 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

Montreal took nine penalties against the Rangers' four in the first period, and it was the New York power play that put the home team in front, Erik Christensen opening the scoring with a wrist shot on a two-man advantage.

New York defenseman Dan Girardi scored seconds after another Montreal penalty expired near the midpoint of the period and fellow defenseman Michael Del Zotto extended the lead to 3-0 when he beat Montreal goalie Carey Price.

The Canadiens battled back in the second period with goals from Max Pacioretty and Andrei Kostitsyn and almost equalized late in the period when Erik Cole's wrist shot beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist but hit the post.

A minute later Rangers' center Brad Richards scored to make it 4-2 and slow the Canadiens charge.

Montreal's Brian Gionta closed the gap to 4-3 with less than two minutes left but Ryan Callahan iced the win with an empty net goal in the final minute.

(Reporting by Mike Mouat in Windsor, Ontario; Editing by Peter Rutherford)