MONTREAL -- In between attending the wake and funeral for the mother of teammate Martin St. Louis, the New York Rangers had a party.
They held it Saturday at Bell Centre, where for most of the afternoon they were the only ones celebrating.
Goals 51 seconds apart late in the second period by winger Chris Kreider and center Brad Richards helped turn a 2-1 Rangers lead into a convincing 7-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in a building that went from very loud to quite quiet during the course of three hours.
The win gives the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final.
St. Louis, whose mother passed away unexpectedly last week, scored New York's tone-setting first goal early in the opening period. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh, wingers Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash and center Derek Stepan had the other Rangers goals.
McDonagh added three assists to tie a Rangers record held by Brian Leetch for most points by a blue-liner in a playoff game. Zuccarello also had two assists for a three-point day.
Winger Rene Bourque and center Lars Eller scored for Montreal.
"Emotionally for us, that is something real strong right now," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of St. Louis' loss, confirming the team will attend the funeral in nearby Laval, Quebec, on Sunday. "I know quite a few of our guys went yesterday to the wake. I texted with Marty last night to make sure everything was good. He got to the hotel just a little bit before midnight.
"It's been very emotional for our whole group. And he's handled it in an incredible way that probably has helped our team come closer together. Tomorrow is going to be a tough day for our group, but we need to be there to support him. We'll do that tomorrow and get ready for (Game 2) Monday."
Despite facing just 22 shots, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding, particularly in the second period with the game still on the line.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price was lifted after two periods, during which he gave up four goals on 20 shots. He was replaced by goalie Peter Budaj, who stopped five of eight pucks fired his way.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien denied that he pulled Price because of an injury, although his star goalie was slow to get up after a collision with Kreider early in the second period.
"I think it was accidental, honestly," Therrien said of Kreider crashing into Price on a breakaway. "The fact that he did not play in the third period was more to protect him than anything, because we were not sharp.
"We were not ready mentally, physically," added Therrien, whose club disposed of the Boston Bruins in a grueling, seven-game conference semifinal. "We were not ready to compete for a game like that. The result, we saw."
As he did in Game 6 of New York's conference semifinal series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis got the Rangers rolling, this time scoring on New York's fifth shot after being set up by a backhand pass from center Dominic Moore at 4:35 of the first.
Zuccarello struck just 1:52 later when he relayed home a nice feed from McDonagh after Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban chased Moore behind the net.
Bourque made it close with a chip shot over Lundqvist's right shoulder 12:38 into the second, a goal that whipped the Bell Centre faithful into a frenzy and gave the Canadiens some life.
But at every turn, Lundqvist was there to stop them. He robbed winger Max Pacioretty twice in the second period and also made a big blocker save off Subban.
And then the tide turned.
Kreider scored after being sent in on a breakaway by Nash with 61 seconds left in the second. Richards made it 4-1 with 11.6 seconds on the clock heading into the intermission, relaying a pass by Price after taking a pass from Zuccarello, who was stationed behind the Montreal net.
"They were really coming at us there," McDonagh. "We got some fortunate clears and good finishing plays by the guys up front. It was a big change in momentum for sure, because they were flying and had some good looks."
The Montreal meltdown continued in the third as McDonagh, Stepan and Nash each scored on the power play.
"We got our --- kicked all over the ice, plain and simple," Bourque said. "We just weren't sharp tonight. I don't think anybody really played well."
Subban was not overly concerned by the lopsided score.
"Off the top of my head, I'm not going to dissect that game, because we didn't do enough to win it," he said. "We just didn't. So we've got to get ready for the next game. They played well, we can play better. We know that."