Last Sunday afternoon’s 5-3 comeback victory for the New York Rangers over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre could be the turning point in a frustrating season as it was their third straight victory and fifth in their last six. With five unanswered goals in the last two periods, the Blueshirts turned what appeared to be an insurmountable deficit into an improbable comeback win.
Chris Drury got the first star for the second straight game with the game-winning goal and also had an assist, but this was very much a team effort in the big rally.
The Habs got off to a very fast start with two power-play goals in the opening frame. With their extremely potent power-play, opponents are at risk when taking penalties and the Rangers did exactly that. Andrei Markov (at 3:11) and Alexei Kovalev (his team-leading 24th at 13:36) beat Henrik Lundqvist with power-play tallies for a 2-0 lead after one. The Habs outshot the Rangers 9-4 and were by far the better team.
Sergei Kostitsyn was awarded a penalty shot while the Habs were on yet another power-play early in the second. Sean Avery modestly hooked Kostitsyn and was whistled for the infraction. His attempt was successful as he shot the puck high, above Lundqvist’s shoulder, but it should have been stopped. With a 3-0 lead, all the momentum and the packed house in joyous celebration, the situation was mighty dim for the visitors.
What transpired shortly thereafter was only a prelude to a super Sunday for most New York fans. Only three minutes after the penalty shot, Michal Rozsival’s blast, while on a power-play, found the back of the net to get the Rangers on the board and quite the crowd. But just 24 seconds later, Brandon Dubinsky beat Cristobal Huet with an unassisted tally to pull the Blueshirts to within one goal and change the entire tenor of the game.
When Scott Gomez tied the score at 15:30, the Habs and their dedicated fans were stunned; the Rangers had completely turned the game around. Ten seconds later, Ryan Hollweg slammed Kostitsyn hard into the boards and was tossed out with a major and game misconduct. It was a very bad decision on his part and it could have reenergized the Canadiens. His action was in response to a vicious elbow and shoulder check leveled on him by Kovalev earlier in the game that went unpenalized. But players cannot take matters into their own hands and mete out justice when they see fit. The Rangers killed off the shorthanded situation and left the ice in good shape tied at three.
In the final period, the Habs had no answer for the Rangers, who were the much better team. Drury’s game-winner came at 10:09 (a redirection of a perfect pass from Nigel Dawes just to the right of Huet) and Martin Straka finished off the spectacular rally with their fifth straight goal at 18:30.
Both Lundqvist and Huet stopped 25 shots in this most entertaining affair. With this current surge, the Rangers are just three points behind in the Atlantic Division and have crept up to seventh place in the conference. The Los Angeles Kings are next; they pay a visit to MSG tonight.