Before the Eastern Conference finals began, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was winless at the Bell Centre for five years.

He made up for lost time over the last three days.

Lundqvist was once again stellar Monday night, stopping 40 shots as the Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Games 3 and 4 are slated for Madison Square Garden, Thursday and Sunday.

"You want to leave it all out there," said Lundqvist, who was also outstanding in New York's 7-2 series-opening win Saturday. "When we were in the conference final two years ago, I'm not sure we did. We remember that this time."

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh and wingers Martin St. Louis scored for the Rangers. Winger Max Pacioretty had Montreal's lone goal.

The outcome proved wrong a hunch by Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, who turned to third-string goalie Dustin Tokarski with star Carey Price injured and declared done for the series. The Rangers scored three times on their first 14 shots against Tokarski, who settled in to make 27 saves on the night.

Therrien and Montreal players praised the performance of Tokarski, who played just three NHL games this season and was making his playoff debut. Tokarski, 24, also was satisfied with his own game, aside from the Nash goal.

"I was expecting him to hold on to it a bit more," he said of the game-winner, a one-timer off a pass from winger Chris Kreider on an odd-man rush in the dying seconds of the first period. "He caught me off guard a bit with the shot. I would have liked to have beat the pass and gotten there on that one."

Tokarski, who found out Monday morning he was being thrown into the fire, said he had "good nerves, excitement," going into the game. He also shared words of advice he received from Price.

"He just said go play your game and be a warrior," Tokarski said. "Do your best. That's all you can do."

As expected, the Canadiens came out flying and seriously threatened in the first minute, when winger Rene Bourque had two chances from the side of Lundqvist. Montreal didn't let the Rangers have a shot on Tokarski until the 4:25 mark, when St. Louis was sent in alone for a backhand chance after a missed offside call. Tokarski made a nice save off that attempt, and the Canadiens said their thanks by giving him a lead less than two minutes later.

However, Pacioretty's fourth goal of the playoffs, a reward for going hard to the New York net at 6:14 of the opening period, stood as the lone marker for all of 17 seconds. McDonagh's third goal of the postseason was a harmless-looking shot from the point that hit a body in front, changed directions and went in off the post.

McDonagh later added an assist to give him six points in the series.

"(Lundqvist) was the only reason we were still in the game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "They had a tremendous push, total control and possession of the game. They scored and made it 1-0, then obviously the turning point is us within a minute scoring to tie it up off a lucky bounce. That changed the momentum. That changed the dynamics of the game a little bit, and we were able to from there."

The teams looked to be headed to the first intermission tied, but Nash scored with 62 seconds left in the period. That would be all the Rangers, and Lundqvist, would need.

St. Louis, who buried his mother a day earlier, scored the only goal of the second period, whipping a shot from the slot past Tokarski's catching mitt with the Rangers on the power play.

"The reason we lost the game was Lundqvist. He was phenomenal. Phenomenal," said Therrien, who also cautioned, "Momentum can change really quick in the playoffs."

Montreal winger Brian Gionta agreed.

"At this time of year, you've got to have a short memory," said Gionta, who is also the Canadiens' captain. "We've dug ourselves a hole, but by no means is this series over."

NOTES: The Rangers were without C Derick Brassard, who was injured when hit by Canadiens D Mike Weaver early in Game 1. Brassard, who has four goals and three assists in 15 playoff games, was New York's fourth leading scorer in the regular season with 45 points. He was replaced in the lineup by W Dan Carcillo. ... Canadiens W Alex Galchenyuk suited up for the first time since sustaining a knee injury April 9. He took the roster spot of rookie W Michael Bournival. ... Replacing injured Canadiens G Carey Price was rookie G Dustin Tokarski, who has won three championships over the last half dozen years. Among his 10 regular-season NHL games, Tokarski faced the Rangers once, giving up three goals on 11 shots in just over 24 minutes. ... There is a new villain in Montreal. Fans showed their displeasure with Rangers W Chris Kreider, who sidelined Price for the series while crashing into him during Game 1, by booing the New York rookie every time he touched the puck.