Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers: Biggest Takeaways from Game 3
The Montreal Canadiens got back in the Eastern Conference Final in the blink of an eye.
While the Habs had been outplayed throughout the majority of Game 3 against the New York Rangers, they managed to pull off a 3-2 overtime win at Madison Square Garden when Tomas Plekanec's shot/pass glanced off Henrik Lundqvist's pad, bounced up and hit Alex Galchenyuk before crossing the goal line and settling near the apron of the net for the game-winning goal.
Instead of falling hopelessly behind by a 3-0 margin in the series, the Canadiens have high hopes once again. The Rangers hold a 2-1 lead, with Game 4 scheduled for Sunday night in New York.
Here are biggest takeaways from Game 3.
Dustin Tokarski Stands on His Head for the Habs
The situation appeared to be brutal for the Montreal Canadiens.
Not only were they trailing the Rangers 2-0 going into Game 3, they had to go to Madison Square Garden and attempt to get back in the series without their superb goaltender Carey Price.
The Canadian Olympic gold medalist had been knocked out of action in Game 1 after injuring his right leg in a collision with New York's Chris Kreider, and Montreal head coach Michel Therrien had turned over the goaltending duties to Dustin Tokarski.
Tokarski played well in Game 2, but the Canadiens ended up on the short end of a 3-1 score. That game turned out to be a warm-up. He exceeded all expectations in Montreal's 3-2 overtime victory over the Rangers.
Tokarski stopped 13 of 14 shots in the first period against the Rangers, and he stopped another 13 shots in the second period as the two teams were tied after two periods at 1-1.
The Canadiens took a late 2-1 lead in the third period, but the Rangers tied it in the final minute when Chris Kreider's deflection went off Alexei Emelin's skate and past Tokarski to send the game into overtime.
The Habs were undaunted by the turn of events and won the game early in the extra session.
Tokarski was the story of Game 3, as he stopped 35 of 37 New York shots in the game.
“Dustin Tokarski was phenomenal,” Therrien told the New York Post's Dan Martin after the game. “Without Tokarski’s performance, probably the result would have been different.”
Galchenyuk Is in the Right Place at the Right Time
There's nothing like the tension of an overtime game in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
As the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers returned to the ice for the start of the first extra period in Game 3, there was a huge emotional and physical swing riding on the results. If the Habs could get the goal, they would be back in the series facing just a 2-1 deficit. If the Rangers could control play and put a puck by Tokarski, they would earn a 3-0 lead.
It didn't take long for the Canadiens to score the decisive goal past Henrik Lundqvist. With just a little over one minute gone in the extra session, Montreal's Tomas Plekanec skated down the left wing and threw a shot/pass in the direction of Lundqvist's far pad.
As Plekanec let go of the puck, 20-year-old Alex Galchenyuk streaked towards the far post. The puck careened off Lundqvist's pad, hit Galchenyuk somewhere in the upper body and ended up in the back of the net.
Game over, Habs win.
Galchenyuk may have scored the goal, but he was unaware of how he had directed the puck into the net. “To be honest, I have no idea what happened,” Galchenyuk told the New York Post. “It bounced off my stick or hit me and it went in.”
The Canadiens don't care exactly how it happened; they are just relieved that it did. They are now in a position to square the series Sunday night.
Rangers' St. Louis Had a Boatload of Opportunities
The Rangers controlled play throughout much of Game 3, and they could have taken a dominant lead in the series if they could have buried a few of their outstanding scoring opportunities in the first and second period.
Nobody had more Grade A chances than Martin St. Louis. He was instrumental in the opening goal of the game when his hard shot was stopped by Tokarski, but Carl Hagelin was there to jump on the rebound and deflect the puck into the net.
After that goal, St. Louis had multiple chances to add to the lead or put the Rangers back on top once Andrei Markov had tied the score early in the second period.
St. Louis found himself wide open as he stood to Tokarski's left on multiple occasions. St. Louis had time to gather the puck, pick out his spot on the open side and fire a rising shot. Tokarski stopped him on each one of these opportunities.
St. Louis was credited with five shots on goal, and he could have put two or three in the net. However, he was unable to get the puck to the back of the net, and the Rangers missed their opportunity to take a stranglehold on the series.
Therrien's Sales Job Is One for the Ages
It's one thing for Montreal head coach Michel Therrien to stand in front of the media and make a case for his team in the Eastern Conference Final as it played without superb goalie Carey Price in the lineup.
It's quite another for Therrien to convince his players that they truly have a chance to win this series without Price.
Not only did the Canadiens lose the first two games of the series at the Bell Centre, they have also been forced to confront Henrik Lundqvist at the opposite end of the ice.
"The King" is a three-time NHL All-Star and a former Vezina Trophy winner. Much like Price is considered to be the best player on the Canadiens, Lundqvist holds that same title for the Rangers.
Somehow, Therrien convinced his players they could win without Price and that Tokarski could help them hang in there against Lundqvist.
The result was a shocking 3-2 overtime win that may just allow the Canadiens to have a chance to compete on more even terms throughout the rest of the series.
Prust Sets the Tone for Habs
Brandon Prust was one of the most popular New York Rangers during his time on Broadway between 2009-10 and 2011-12.
Prust was known for his high energy and hard hitting. He used that aggressive style of play to earn a free-agent contract with the Montreal Canadiens, and he used that style against the Rangers Thursday night.
Prust delivered a hard, aggressive check to Derek Stepan just 2:55 into the first period that knocked the Rangers forward down to the ice. Prust's hit came from the blind side, and Stepan told Larry Brooks of the New York Post that he felt the impact on his jaw.
By all rights, Prust should have been penalized for his hit. However, officials did not see the blow, so Prust received neither a two-minute nor a major penalty for his action.
The hit had an impact on the game as it demonstrated the Canadiens were not about to play the game passively even though they were trailing in the series and playing on the road.
Stepan missed a couple of shifts after the hard hit, but he soon returned to the ice and saw 17:46 of ice time.