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Niemi Sets Aside 31 Shots As Canadiens Defeat Rangers

MONTREAL (AP) — Antti Niemi made 31 saves and the Montreal Canadiens beat the struggling New York Rangers 3-1 on Thursday night to snap their six-game losing streak.

Tomas Plekanec, Jeff Petry and Phillip Danault scored for Montreal (23-29-8), which avoided matching its longest skid of the season. Niemi got the start in place of injured Carey Price.

Montreal Canadiens' goaltender Antti Niemi makes a save during the third period against the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre on February 22, 2018. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Before the game, Montreal announced Price will be sidelined indefinitely with a concussion. The goalie took a shot to the mask in Tuesday's loss to Philadelphia.

Earlier on Thursday, the Canadiens also announced Shea Weber will miss the rest of the season because he needs surgery for a torn tendon in his left foot. The 32-year-old defenseman has not played since Dec. 16.

Kevin Hayes scored for the Rangers (27-29-5), who have lost five in a row. Alexandar Georgiev, making his NHL debut, stopped 38 of 40 shots.

Hayes spoiled Niemi's shutout bid with exactly three minutes remaining. The Rangers' forward appeared to have kicked the puck straight into the net, but instead deflected the puck with his stick before it crossed the line.

With Price and Weber out of the lineup, another veteran stepped up for Montreal.

Plekanec made it 1-0 at 6:59 of the first period with his sixth goal of the season. The 35-year-old beat defenseman Rob O'Gara to the puck and buried a no-look feed from Paul Byron.

In the second period, Charles Hudon connected with Petry on a 2-on-1 for Montreal's second of the game at 3:50. Hudon's saucer pass narrowly avoided Brady Skjei's slide and landed right on Petry's stick at the side of the net. Petry has scored 10 goals for the first time in his career.

The play got started with a big hit by Nicolas Deslauriers in the neutral zone.

Danault scored into an empty net from deep in his own zone with 1:17 left.

Both goalies were solid throughout, with Niemi getting the better of the 22-year-old Georgiev.

NOTES: Rick Nash and Michael Grabner were healthy scratches for New York, likely to avoid any injuries before Monday's trade deadline. Two weeks ago, the Rangers organization, in a letter to fans, strongly suggested a roster overhaul was imminent. ... Montreal's Noah Juulsen made his NHL debut. He finished with two shots and one blocked shot in 16:21 of ice time.


Rangers: Host the Minnesota Wild on Friday night.

Canadiens: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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