We’ve already seen in these NHL playoffs that initial home ice advantage means nothing, and the New York Rangers are close to proving that again as they take a 3-1 lead in the Eastern conference finals, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 with an overtime goal of non other than Martin St. Louis as they had back to Canada with a chance to finish off the series.
The Canadiens were chasing the Rangers all game long and will probably look back at their terrible execution on the power play except for once as one of the reasons they lost a game they were playing well in once again in this series. The Habs were only 1-of-8 on power plays (the Rangers 0-for-3), although that one goal actually saved them before St. Louis, who has a history of scoring big goals in overtime, added yet another one to continue his impressive storyline in this postseason.
The death of his mother seems to have taken his game to another level. Always one of the smaller players out there on the ice, the clichè suggests he has a big enough heart to make up for that. In truth, he simply seems to play better when the moment becomes bigger, scoring his fifth goal of the postseason as the heroics of Dustin Tokarski didn’t carry over from the previous game, the only win for Montreal in the series.
Another thing that didn’t carry over, which is a good thing, was the violence. The suspensions worked and kept things a lot less chippy than in game 3. Maybe the Canadiens need that kind of atmosphere of ruggedness and aggression, especially as they made it work in their favor by beating the Boston Bruins in the conference semifinals. The Rangers are a more skilled hockey team, so things need to get a bit ugly for the Habs to feel more comfortable.
The Rangers took the lead for the first time in the game with 7:18 on the clock in the first period as Carl Hagelin was alone with the helpless Tokarski to score his fifth goal of the postseason. The Habs came back in the second period with a beautiful finish that stunned Henriq Lundqvist, going into the top corner to make it an even game. The second period ended with the Rangers taking the lead again, this time with a long range blast from Derick Brassard.
The third period wasn’t one with plenty of chances or great hockey, but Montreal somehow survived it without creating too much pressure on Lundqvist and the Rangers, as P.K. Subban blasted one out of desperation to beat Lundqvist again, who did finish with 27 saves on 29 shots but could have done a lot better on the goals he did concede. Dramatic as that equalizer was, it was only enough to get the Habs into overtime, not win it.
I just remember there was a turnover somewhere around the neutral zone. I’m not sure. St. Louis had some time and picked a corner on me. It’s a game of inches, and we came up a bit short. By no means are we counting ourselves out. It’s a tough loss, it’s a bitter loss, but at the end of the day, we are still in this series. I still like our chances with two games at home.
It could be just one more game at home for Montreal, but that’s besides the point. In a series that’s quite close during the game, the Rangers keep finding the way to make that extra something count, while the Canadiens keep settling for just OK. Sometimes teams with their backs to the wall find that something special out of desperation. Facing elimination inside their own stadium, there’s no better or other time for the Habs to find theirs.