The New York Rangers extended their Eastern Conference Final series lead over the Montreal Canadiens to 3-1 after a 3-2 Game 4 overtime win Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
Martin St. Louis scored the winner a little over six minutes into the extra frame. He ghosted into an attacking position to the right of goal and collected a pass from Carl Hagelin to set up the score. With plenty of time to spare, St. Louis measured up his shot and went top shelf to beat Montreal goalie Dustin Tokarski.
The goal was fully deserved as St. Louis had a few gilt-edged chances go begging earlier in the game, in addition to earlier in the series. It is the fourth postseason OT goal of his illustrious career, which ties him for the active lead, per ESPN Stats and Info:
NHL playoff overtime goal leaders (active players)- Martin St Louis, Patrick Marleau, Patrick Kane, Jaromir Jagr with 4 each.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 26, 2014
Only three more players have more OT goals in the playoffs, per broadcaster Kenny Albert:
Only players with more playoff OT goals than Martin St. Louis (4): Joe Sakic (8), Maurice Richard (6), Glenn Anderson (5) @NYRangers— Kenny Albert (@KennyAlbert) May 26, 2014
The Rangers rode their luck a bit in Game 4, but they pounced on Montreal's mental mistakes and seized every opportunity.
Hagelin book-ended the game, both playing a vital role in the winner and drawing first blood for the Rangers in the first period. The winger was sprung from a marvelous pass by Brian Boyle, leaving him with a breakaway chance. Hagelin waited patiently until he saw an opening on Tokarski's goal and then slipped a backhanded shot past the young netminder.
That was the first Rangers short-handed goal since 2008, per NHL Public Relations:
While the goal was impressive in its own right, Boyle's pass was the true highlight of that attacking move. He put the puck on a plate for Hagelin:
That was an A-plus plus plus pass from Boyle to spring Hagelin for the shorty.— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) May 26, 2014
Francis Bouillon tied the game at 1-1 with a goal eight minutes and eight seconds into the second period. New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist looked to have cut down Bouillon's angle, but the Montreal defenseman went top shelf to find the back of the net.
The general consensus was that nobody thought Bouillon could do that:
wow, Francis Bouillon ! who have thought it, first game of this series and the veteran scores. 1-1— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) May 26, 2014
Frankie Bouillon? Well, that was unexpected.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) May 26, 2014
1-1. Did not realize Bouillon had that shot in him.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) May 26, 2014
St. Louis nearly handed New York its second lead of the night. He had a breakaway chance on Tokarski, but his shot was unbelievably saved on the glove side by the Canadiens goaltender.
At the time, NBC broadcaster Doc Emrick wondered if Tokarski's save changed the entire complexion of the series:
"He may have saved the series." Doc Emrick on Dustin Tokarski's glove save on Martin St. Louis' breakaway.— NBCSportsPR (@NBCSportsPR) May 26, 2014
Derick Brassard played the role of returning hero for the Blueshirts, as he gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead with 56 seconds to go in the second period.
Montreal was in the process of changing lines and the Canadiens defensemen lost track of who was supposed to cover the Rangers center. As a result, Brassard found himself in tons of space after receiving Dan Girardi's outlet pass and then fired a vicious slap shot past Tokarski.
Heading into Game 4, Brassard's status was up in the air after he had been out since getting hurt in Game 1. The 26-year-old wasn't waiting for medical clearance to declare himself ready.
"I was told he cleared himself," New York head coach Alain Vigneault said, per Kevin Allen of USA Today. "That's good news. I will talk to him and make sure everything is good. Players at this time want to play, and I have to make sure everything is all right."
That's why he's a hockey player.
The storybook ending would've been for Brassard's goal to have won the game for the Rangers, but P.K. Subban doesn't have time for sentiment. He fired home the game-tying power-play goal two minutes into the second period to register his first point of the series.
While Brassard's goal was a howitzer, Subban's was not of this world:
P.K. Subban sees your slap shot rocket goal, and raises you a slap shot rocket goal— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) May 26, 2014
Up to that point in the game, the Rangers had amassed seven penalties. Pierre McGuire said on the NBC Sports Network broadcast that sooner or later, New York's penalty troubles were bound to catch up to it:
"You can only take so many penalties - it'll end up burning you." Pierre McGuire on Rangers. Subban PPG ties game 2-2 early 3rd— NBCSportsPR (@NBCSportsPR) May 26, 2014
Alex Galchenyuk nearly scored what likely would've been the winner for the Canadiens, but his shot at 16:45 of the third period caromed off the crossbar.
That's what kind of night it was for Montreal, and as writer Rob Weintraub mused, the Habs had ample opportunity to tie the series:
Three breakaways allowed Hit the crossbar with 2 minutes left. Habs had it there for the taking, and now they're done. All on West winner.— Robert Weintraub (@robwein) May 26, 2014
Instead, the Rangers are firmly in the driver's seat, and Montreal must win the next three games to stay alive.
The Eastern Conference Final looks all but locked up as long as the Rangers don't throw it away. Even with two of the next three games to come in the Bell Centre, you'd expect the Rangers to get the job done after the way they persevered Sunday.