The Montreal Canadiens may have been the better team on Monday night, but the New York Rangers had the better goaltender. In turn, the Rangers came away with a 3-1 win and currently hold a 2-0 lead over the Canadiens with the Eastern Conference final heading to New York.
With all due respect to 24-year-old Dustin Tokarski, who was making his first postseason start for the Habs, it was going to be tough for anyone to outduel the Rangers goalie.
Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant in Game 2, stopping 40-of-41 shots that came his way, with the lone goal coming on a lucky bounce. Much of his success came early, as the Canadiens peppered the veteran goalie with 14 shots on goal in the first period.
"I look forward to going there," Lundqvist said. "It's a conference final in Montreal. That's special. I'm excited about that. When it comes to my game, I just try to go out and play the same way. Don't overthink it. Just go out and enjoy it."
As for the Rangers' offensive performance, two stars in Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis registered goals, while Ryan McDonagh started the scoring and finished with two points. McDonagh's performance in the series has been astounding, as Rosen notes:
Ryan McDonagh has 6 points in the series and Game 2 is only barely half over.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) May 20, 2014
Montreal knew it needed to get off to a fast start. After losing goalie Carey Price for the remainder of the East final, jumping out to an early lead would ease some of Tokarski's nerves.
Following an onslaught of shots on goal that were all turned away by Lundqvist, Max Pacioretty narrowly deflected the puck over the Swedish goalie just 6:14 into Game 2. The elation quickly swept over Montreal fans, but it would be short-lived.
McDonagh created a scoring chance on the following possession for the Rangers, deflating the crowd just 17 seconds after the Habs took their first lead of the series. Steve Zipay of Newsday notes the momentum shift in favor of the Rangers following the goal:
So it's 1-1. Puck bounced off Gorges and in 17 seconds after roof almost blew off— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) May 20, 2014
What ensued after McDonagh's goal was an unmatched effort by the Rangers on the offensive end.
New York made several attempts to tickle the twine, but came up empty on countless occasions. That was until Nash finally got his opportunity to change the course of the game with just 1:02 remaining in the opening frame.
Rosen provides a look at just how crucial the goal was for New York after fending off the Habs throughout the first period:
And a dagger, if you can have one after the 1st period, by the Rangers and Rick Nash, who scores his 2nd of the series to put them up 2-1.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) May 20, 2014
The second period started off much differently for the Canadiens. After a frantic pace to open the game, the Habs managed to tally just eight shots in the middle period and were shut out throughout the frame.
Meanwhile, St. Louis once again proved he can still be a difference maker on the big stage. The 38-year-old wing found the back of the net to give the Rangers a two-goal lead heading into the third period.
Then it was Lundqvist's time to shine—and did he ever.
The goalie nailed down the huge win by standing on his head and killing every opportunity for the Habs, stopping 19 shots that came his way. Montreal tried everything, including a six-on-four opportunity during a power play with the goalie pulled, but Lundqvist wouldn't allow any of it.
Dave Lozo of Bleacher Report notes the phenomenal showing by Lundqvist over the course of the game:
Seriously though Henrik Lundqvist is kinda stealing this game.— Dave Lozo (@DaveLozo) May 20, 2014
After two demoralizing losses for the Canadiens, the series now heads to New York with the Rangers looking to clinch the series at home.
With their backs against the wall and Price on the pine, the Habs have a daunting task ahead of them. After Tokarski surrendered three goals in Game 2, could there be another change in goal before Game 3?
Coverage for the game begins on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. And with the Canadiens searching for a pulse, Lundqvist will look to suffocate them once again to continue New York's astounding run.