MONTREAL – The perseverance of Marty St. Louis continued to shine and inspire his teammates in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals as St. Louis scored 4:35 into the game and added an assist in a 7-2 Rangers win that gave New York a 1-0 series lead over the Montreal Canadiens. Ryan McDonagh tied a team record for most points by a defenseman in a playoff game with a goal and three assists but the rallying cry around St. Louis in his time of need also served as a major factor in the Rangers' fourth straight win.
"It's been an emotional time for everybody but the guys have been behind me and supporting me," St. Louis said after Game 1. "Their effort is unbelievable. We feel really close right now and we're trying to keep feeding off that."
Since his mother passed away suddenly on May 8, Rangers forward Marty St. Louis has found solace in the shelter of his team and hockey. With his team trailing 3-1 in their second round series with the Penguins, St. Louis decided to keep playing and while he didn't register any points in their 5-1 victory that night, his presence served as an inspiration that got even greater when he scored in their Game 6 win on Mother's Day. Since his mother's passing, St. Louis now has two goals and two assists and the team is feeding off his strength.
"It's been a week of emotions," said goalie Henrik Lundqvist who made 20 saves in Game 1. "Playing in the playoffs is so intense; you try to perform at a high level. At the same time a teammate trying to go through a rough time, so you try to be there as a support, and it makes you think a lot about a lot of things, not only hockey. So you go back and forth. Pay attention to your game and what you need to do, and obviously, other things are important in your life.
But I think as a group in dealing with it the right way, we come together and work for one another, and you could see that in the Pittsburgh series. Games 5, 6 and 7, we played really well as a team, and we were on the same page. I think tonight we started the game really well. We set the tone the way we were playing and played just a smart game."
On Friday night the wake for St. Louis' mom was held in nearby Laval and the 38 year-old veteran didn't return to the team hotel until almost midnight. On Sunday, the team will accompany St. Louis to the funeral.
"It's been very emotional for our whole group," head coach Alain Vigneault said following the game. "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."
James Murphy is the host of 'Murphy's Hockey Law' Radio Show on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio