After being stymied by Dustin Tokarski on the same shot attempt multiple times over the past two games, Marty St. Louis was finally able to elevate the puck enough to beat the rookie goaltender and score the overtime winner as the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on home ice. With the win, the Rangers took a 3-1 series lead and have the chance to secure a trip to the Stanley Cup finals Tuesday night in Montreal.
“It’s quite a big difference up 3-1 instead of 2-2,” said St. Louis, “We were well aware of the opportunity we had with these two games at home.”
While the Rangers did come away with the win, it was not easy for them to do. They gave up the lead twice and lacked discipline, taking nine penalties throughout the course of the game. Give the Habs enough opportunities and they will eventually take advantage, which was the case last night at the Garden. Eight power plays were awarded to the Canadiens, and they were able to break through on their sixth attempt when P.K. Subban recorded his first point of the series and tied the game at two early in the third period. Without Carey Price, Subban is the player that needs to be the difference maker for the Habs if they want to stave off elimination. He has been fairly quiet in this series, unable to utilize the powerhouse shot he possesses, which is a testament to how little room the Rangers are giving him. If he can get going, the Habs will have a better chance of forcing a Game 6.
The story in most playoff games tends to focus on goaltending. Both Henrik Lundqvist and Tokarski put on a show last night, making great saves and coming up big in their teams’ time of need. Unfortunately for the rookie and the rest of the Habs, Lundqvist is playing better than he has ever played in the playoffs. He is seeing the puck well, not giving up weak goals, and always keeping his team in contention. He is the main reason the Rangers have been so successful these playoffs, and he will have to continue to carry them forward.
Much is also to be said about Tokarski who came in for the injured Price. Although he lacks experience and has only played three NHL playoff games, he is playing hard and smart. Last night, he absolutely robbed St. Louis point blank in the second with a beautiful glove save that certainly will appear on highlight reels. He played big, and even though he lost sight of the puck a few times, he had his teammates to bail him out when he faltered. Tokarski has come in and given the Habs a chance in this series. He has his work cut out for him, as does his entire team, but he has proven to be willing to put up a fight.
Aside from great goaltending, the Habs will have to figure out how to slow down the Rangers. The Blueshirts continue to use their speed to trip up the Canadiens, throw them off their game and create scoring chances. Carl Hagelin showed them that he doesn’t need much room in order to make you pay. Hagelin, out on the penalty kill in the first, broke toward the neutral zone where he received a stretch pass from Brian Boyle. All alone, with no one able to catch up, Hagelin slide the puck past Tokarski and into the back of the net.
The first ended with the Rangers ahead, but the Canadiens had a lot of fight left in them and they were going to prove it in the next two periods. Obviously frustrated with their lack of power on the man-advantage, the Habs continued to push and throw the puck at Lundqvist from every angle. The Habs were able to break through 8:08 into the second. Francis Bouillon, not only has extensive experience in the playoffs, but also demonstrated he can fire off a shot. Lundqvist learned that firsthand last night when Bouillon beat him top shelf after Dan Girardi flubbed on a defensive play. Instead of staying in the center, Girardi slid over to cover a man, which turned the Habs 3-on-2 situation into a 2 on 1. The Canadiens took advantage of the room and tied the game at one.
The Rangers once again took the lead with less than a minute to play in the second. Derick Brassard who returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with an injury was back in top form and back with his line mates Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot. The goal was a result of another stretch pass and another breakaway-type opportunity. Girardi, deep in his own zone, saw Brassard all alone at the blueline. He sent him a crisp, lead pass that ended up right on Brassard’s tape. Brassard entered the zone and fired a slapshot past Tokarski.
It would have looked dim for the Canadiens going into the third if the Rangers were a disciplined team, but they kept taking penalties—bad penalties. And although the Habs have struggled on the power play, they knew that it was only a matter of time before something clicked. They have the power and they have the skill and they finally broke through the Rangers strong penalty kill. The key to this particular power play’s success was puck movement. On their sixth power play, the Habs were able to develop sustained pressure in the offensive zone and keep the Rangers on their toes. The Habs moved the puck well, cycling the puck, which eventually opened up a lane for Subban who made sure to make this shot count. With bodies in front on Lundqvist, Subban was able to put his team back in the game.
The teams traded chances the rest of the third, but both goaltenders stood tall. With the end of regulation, the teams needed OT to decide a winner. A little more than six minutes into the OT period, St. Louis was able to figure out the rookie goaltender and send him team into Montreal with a two-game lead.
What did the Rangers take away from the win?
“We have to realize the longer this [series] goes, the more life they have,” Brad Richards said. “We have to come out strong on Tuesday, and our discipline has to be a lot better.”