NEW YORK — Nate Thompson scored with less than two minutes left in the third period and the Montreal Canadiens beat the New York Rangers 2-1 on Friday night for their second victory in the last eleven games.
Brendan Gallagher also scored for the Canadiens. Carey Price made 29 saves and improved to 7-2-0 in his last nine games at Madison Square Garden.
Brendan Smith scored for the Rangers. Alexandar Georgiev made 31 saves in his second straight start in place of Henrik Lundqvist, who was feeling under the weather.
The loss was the Rangers' 17th in their last 23 games against the Canadiens since the start of 2013.
When these teams met in Montreal on Nov. 23, they played an instant classic. The Canadiens led 4-0 before the Rangers stormed back to win 6-5.
There was far less scoring Friday night.
With the game tied at 1-1 and just over a minute left, Nick Cousins found Thompson for the winner. It was Thompson's first goal since Nov. 9.
Smith tied the game at 1-all early in the second period, capitalizing on a turnover by Otto Leskinen and scoring on a breakaway. Leskinen was playing in just his second career game, having made his NHL debut the previous night. Montreal's penalty kill, which entered the night ranked 29th in the league at 75%, killed off two penalties committed by Ben Chiarot in the final seven minutes of the second period.
The teams exchanged chances in the opening five minutes, with the best opportunity falling to Mika Zibanejad, whose shot from the left wing was saved by Price.
Gallagher scored the game's first goal a little more than halfway through the first period, redirecting a feed from Phillip Danault. Gallagher has scored in three straight games.
The Rangers nearly tied the game less than 30 seconds later, as Shea Weber blocked Ryan Strome's shot. Weber was bloodied after the puck hit him in the mouth, but remained in the game.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi didn't play after suffering a concussion Thursday night against the Avalanche. He was replaced by Charles Hudon. ... Marc Staal played for the first time since suffering an ankle injury on Nov. 7. Staal took the spot of Libor Hajek, who is expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks after sustaining a sprained knee during Thursday night's game in Columbus. ... The Rangers scratched Micheal Haley. ... The Canadiens scratched Mike Reilly and Christian Folin. ... New York assigned Boo Nieves to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League on Friday.
Canadiens: At Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
Rangers: Open a four-game trip at Vegas on Sunday.
More AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/NHL and https://www.twitter.com/AP_Sports
Michael Dominski, The Associated Press