Martin St. Louis and the New York Rangers had a reason to smile in the midst of a weekend of sadness.
St. Louis, who will attend his mother’s funeral with his teammates today, scored the opening goal of the Eastern Conference finals to pace New York’s suddenly high-powered offense in a 7-2 rout of the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
New York got goals from six other players, and Henrik Lundqvist quieted talk of a Montreal jinx in a 20-save effort. It was his first victory at the Bell Centre in more than two years.
The Rangers have wrested home-ice advantage away from the Canadiens, heading into Game 2 of the series Monday night in Montreal.
“It was an emotional time for everyone, but the guys have been behind me and supported me,” said St. Louis, who received a long ovation from the crowd when he was named the game’s first star. “My teammates are behind me and supporting me, and their effort was unbelievable.
“We feel really close right now and we’re trying to keep feeding off that.”
The Rangers galvanized and drew inspiration from St. Louis after his mother’s unexpected death before Game 5 of New York’s second-round series against Pittsburgh.
The Broadway Blueshirts haven’t lost since, winning four straight — including three on the road.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said his team is trying to support St. Louis while staying focused on playing a sound team game.
“Emotionally, for us, that is something really strong right now,” Vigneault said. “I know quite a few of our guys went to the wake [on Friday], and I texted with Marty last night to make sure that everything was good.
“He’s handled it in an incredible way that probably has helped our team come closer together. [Sunday] is going to be a tough day. We need to be there to support him, and we’ll do that and get ready for Monday.”
Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Brad Richards, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash also scored for the Rangers, who had netted only four goals in their past nine visits to Montreal.
Lundqvist hadn’t played in Montreal since allowing four goals on Jan. 15, 2012. His last win there was March 17, 2009.
The quick-footed Rangers, coming off a comeback, seven-game win over Pittsburgh, jumped on a Canadiens team that was flat and mentally absent after a nasty and emotional seven-game win over top-seeded Boston.
“You don’t look at the score,” Richards said. “That’s not indicative of how anything’s going to happen in this series.
“We got fortunate. We got some bounces. We got some momentum, and pucks went in the net. It was a win, that’s all it was. We’re very aware that it’s going to be a lot different.”