In a match up of two original six teams and a series that has been nothing short of physical and full of trash talking banter, the New York Rangers faced off against the Montreal Canadiens in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden.
Montreal was coming off an emotional game three, 3-2, OT victory that gave Montreal some life after they had dropped the first two games of the series in front of their home fans. With a must win atmosphere for the Canadiens, the victory pulled them within one game of evening up the Eastern Conference Finals.
Building up to the hype of game four, an assistant coach was caught “spying” on a Rangers’ practice and was escorted out as it violated NHL rules. The head coaches also exchanged words regarding Derick Brassards injury.
“We expect Derick Brassard to play and we know exactly where he’s
injured. Hockey is a small world…” – Michel Therrien
“Let’s put it this way, I hope nothing happens to Brass, the player,
because Michel could be in trouble.” – Alain Vigneault
Derick Brassard returned to the Rangers lineup after missing the last two games due to an injury.
The play throughout the entire first period was exactly where it ended in game three — physical.
The Rangers committed three penalties in the period that were killed off by the Rangers penalty kill that were able to keep the Canadiens in check. The Canadiens however, continued to struggle on the power play, still looking to net their first power play goal in this series (0-12).
Through the first four games of the series the Canadiens are now 1-17 on the power play.
“Our power play has to do better…” – Michel Therrien
The Rangers would end up committing 8 penalties in a rather undisciplined game, that unfortunately didn’t cost them the victory.
The Rangers would strike first in the period as on the penalty kill, Carl Hagelin would receive a tape-to-tape pass from Brian Boyle on a break down in the Montreal power play and backhand the puck through the five hole of Dustin Tokarski.
Brian Gionta would miss a wide open net as he was unable to elevate the puck over the right pad of Henrik Lundqvist and the score would remain 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
Lundqvist would stop all eleven shots he faced in the first period.
The Canadiens were able to capitalize on a 2-on-1 advantage as the veteran Francis Bouillon, inserted for his first game of the series, would shelve a wrist shot over the glove on Henrik Lundqvist tying the score up at one goal a piece with just under twelve left in the second. Up to that point in the game it had been only the Canadiens second shot of the period and would end up finishing the period with 9 shots.
The period was also overshadowed by what appeared to be embellishing by Tomas Plekanec and P.K. Subban on two high-sticking calls courtesy of the Rangers that resulted in two penalties.
Dustin Tokarski would make a huge blocker save on Derick Brassard that helped the Canadiens preserve the tie game. But the save of the game, save of the series perhaps, was Tokarski straight robbing Marty St. Louis with the glove hand on a breakaway.
With another breakaway and under a minute to play in the second, a stretch pass from Dan Giraridi to Derick Brassard, Brassard ripped a laser slap shot passed Tokarski giving the lead back to New York heading into the second intermission. In these playoffs the Rangers came into tonight 8-0 when leading after two periods.
Eventually, all bad things must come to an end and it did for the dismal power play of Montreal.
On their sixth power play of the game the Canadiens were finally able to score their first power play of the series as P.K. Subban ripped a slapper past Henrik Lundqvist tying the game at two early in the third. With that goal it also ended a stretch where the Rangers had successfully killed off 27 of 27 penalty kill attempts.
With under five to play in the game, Galchenyuk screamed a wrist shot of the pipe, straight down, and bounced towards the left face-off circle, saving the game for the Rangers.
Play would whine down in regulating and overtime was on the agenda for the second straight game of this series. Rangers led Montreal in shots at the end of regulation, 26-25.
With just under fourteen minutes left to play, Marty St. Louis would squeak a shot just over the left shoulder of Dustin Tokarski and win the game for the Rangers, staking them to a 3-1 series lead and just one game away from the Stanley Cup Finals.
For the Canadiens, it’s devastating. They had plenty of power play chances and only squandered one goal from those chances. They certainly hung in their with New York, but let this game slip away.
The series now shifts back to Montreal for game five where Montreal will look to start an improbable run and attempt to climb back for a 3-1 series deficit.