The Montreal Canadiens had nothing to lose as they went into the Madison Square Garden behind by two games. Despite using their replacement in goal, Dustin Tokarski, they did fine under the pressure from the New York Rangers, coming away with the 3-2 overtime win to get their first victory of the series, making it 2-1.
In a game that was physical and violent from the start, the Rangers came out the losers because of slightly losing their cool early on. Brandon Prust, a former Rangers player, delivered a huge late hit on Derek Stepan who had to be taken off the ice while Prust got nothing. That didn’t stop there, as Derek Dorsett sought revenge and got into a fight with Prust. In the mean time, an already edgy Daniel Carcillo was hovering around the two exchanging blows, as linesman Scott Driscoll held on to him, keeping him away from the action.
Carcillo tried to wrench free from the official and elbowed him in the face, which got him thrown out of the game. The Rangers were the better team or more dangerous at least throughout the game, but this time they couldn’t find a way to pierce through Tokarski as the 24-year old seemed a lot more comfortable with the playoff atmosphere, playing his first ever postseason game on the road and only his second overall. He finished with 35 saves (94.6%), “outplaying” Lundqvist who ended up conceding one more goal than him and saving only 22 of the 25 shots at him.
In truth, it was a lot of luck involved that decided the game. Three goals, two of them going Montreal’s way, bounced off the skates of defending players. The only “true” goals in this came earlier on: First with Carl Hagelin giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead late in the first period and then the equalizer from Andrei Markov, scoring his first goal of the postseason.
The finish was impressive. Daniel Briere slid the puck across the goal and it bounced off of Ryan McDonagh to give the Habs the lead with 16:58 on the clock in the third period. The Rangers, always dangerous in the clutch, got back and forced overtime thanks to a similar goal which was given to Chris Kreider (19:31 in the third) which hit the sliding right skate of defenseman Alexei Emelin to beat Tokarski.
The Canadiens got what they deserved quickly in overtime as Alex Galchenyuk tipped in a pass from Thomas Plekanec after 1:12, left wide open near the right goal post. From that moment it was all about defending, killing time and some more heroics from Tokarski, filling in some big shoes for the injured Carey Price.
Dustin Tokarski was phenomenal. He’s a battler, and most important thing, he’s a winner. I felt our team played with more confidence as the game went on, and the Rangers got a break at the end to tie the game up. But without Tokarski’s performance, probably the result would have been different. It was tough coming back in the locker room, but we focused. We have a character team, and we bounced back.