Rangers oust Montreal, Blues eliminate Wild in NHL playoffs
New York (AFP) – Mats Zuccarello scored two goals on Saturday to spark the New York Rangers over Montreal 3-1 and advance into the second round of the National Hockey League playoffs.
The Rangers took the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series 4-2 over the Canadiens and will next face either the Boston Bruins or Ottawa Senators.
In the Western Conference, St. Louis left wing Magnus Paajarvi scored the winning goal 9:42 into over-time in a 4-3 triumph over Minnesota that advanced the Blues into the second round.
St. Louis, seeking a first-ever Stanley Cup title, won the series over the Wild 4-1 and will next face Nashville, which shockingly swept top-seeded Chicago in round one.
In a later first-round Western Conference game, the Edmonton Oilers try to advance by beating host San Jose in game six of their series.
At New York, Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal 6:19 into the first period but Zuccarello answered on a power-play goal 2:26 into the second period to equalize.
Norwegian right wing Zuccarello scored again with 6:29 remaining in the second period to put the Rangers in front.
Montreal could not manage an equalizer, even after pulling the goaltender in the dying seconds for an extra attacker. That led to Derek Stepan’s goal into the empty net with 18 seconds remaining for the final nail in the Canadiens’ coffin.
At Minnesota, the Wild trailed and were minutes from elimination in regulation time but netted two third-period goals to force over-time.
Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu, a 32-year-old Finnish center, scored a power-play goal when he batted the puck out of the air and into the net to pull the Wild within 3-2 with 9:22 remaining in the third.
Jason Zucker scored the equalizer with 5:01 to play, the US left wing faking past Blues goaltender Jake Allen and sliding the puck in around him.
St. Louis right wing Vladimir Tarasenko opened the scoring 7:16 into the first period and Swede Alexander Steen stretched the Blues’ lead with his second goal of the series just 3:15 later.
Defenseman Ryan Suter pulled the Wild within 2-1 on a power-play goal with only 89 seconds remaining in the opening period, but Paul Stastny gave the Blues a 3-1 edge with 12:37 remaining in the third.