Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers: Biggest Takeaways from Game 4
The New York Rangers were in danger of letting the huge advantage they had gained in Montreal slip away.
The Rangers had seized control of their Eastern Conference Final series with back-to-back wins over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center to start the series. However, they had lost Game 3 at Madison Square Garden and Game 4 was tied after 60 minutes. If they lost a second consecutive home overtime game, the Canadiens would have the momentum.
That's when Martin St. Louis decided enough was enough. The diminutive sniper ended matters with a brilliant shot into the top corner of the net a little more than six minutes into overtime.
The shot gave the Rangers a 3-2 victory and a 3-1 lead in the series, and it has left the Canadiens teetering on the brink of elimination.
Here's a look at the key takeaways from Game 4 of the series.
St. Louis Comes Through in the Clutch
Martin St. Louis had struck a familiar pose throughout Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden.
After ripping off shots from his familiar spot on the right wing, he looked to the heavens as each of those shots had been stopped by Montreal rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
Weren't the Canadiens supposed to be vulnerable in goal without the injured Carey Price? Couldn't the Rangers take advantage of his inexperience and put this series away?
The answer through the first 60 minutes of Game 4 had been a resounding no. However, St. Louis was not about to waste his fifth shot on goal of the night. After taking a pass from Carl Hagelin, St. Louis had time to stride in on Tokarski and measure a shot high on the short side.
St. Louis snapped the puck home, and the Rangers had a 3-2 victory and command of the series. "I had to trust what I saw," St. Louis explained to NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire. "I knew he had stopped me before, but I saw an opening up high, and that's where I put it. It's obviously a great feeling."
Tokarski knew he couldn't continue to stop St. Louis indefinitely. “I was aware he was over there,” Tokarski told Dan Martin of the New York Post. “I thought I got out there and got set. He just beat me.”
Tokarski Continues to Flourish in Goal for the Habs
The New York Rangers felt quite a bit of desperation after dropping Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final at home.
They were not about to let Montreal goalie Dustin Tokarski steal a second consecutive game at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers came out firing, and when Brian Boyle sent Carl Hagelin alone on Tokarski at the 7:18 mark of the first period with a shorthanded breakaway, the speedy forward slipped the puck through the goaltender's 5-hole with a slick, backhanded move.
Tokarski could have fallen apart after that goal, but he slammed the door on the Rangers throughout the rest of the first period and he didn't give up another goal until late in the second period. Tokarski used his quickness, his aggressiveness and his scrambling ability to keep the Rangers from adding to their lead or regaining it after Francis Bouillon had tied the score in the second period for the Habs.
Derick Brassard finally solved Tokarski in the final minute of the second period. He took a long stretch pass from Dan Girardi in stride, and he noticed that Tokarski was giving him a bit of room on the short side. Brassard wired a shot past the goaltender to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead as they went to the locker room.
Tokarski was not perfect, as he gave the Rangers three goals on 29 shots. However, the Canadiens never would have been able to extend the game to overtime if Tokarski had not been spectacular throughout the majority of the game.
Rangers' Lack of Discipline Nearly Costs Them Game 4
It takes discipline to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.
While the Rangers are just one win away from playing for the NHL's championship, they displayed very little of it against the Canadiens in Game 4.
The Rangers gave the Habs eight power-play chances as they took undisciplined and lazy penalties throughout the game. By contrast, Montreal was forced to play shorthanded on just three occasions against the Rangers.
The biggest issue for New York was taking penalties in the offensive zone. This is a nearly unforgivable sin in the playoffs, and seven of the Rangers' penalties came while they were trying to mount an attack against the Habs.
Benoit Pouliot was the biggest offender. He was whistled for two penalties, including a brutal holding-the-stick call against P.K. Subban 30 seconds into overtime. The Rangers had a chance to mount an assault in the Montreal zone, but Pouliot grabbed the Montreal defenseman's stick and refused to let go.
The Canadiens controlled the puck during the ensuing power play, but the Rangers rescued Pouliot from wearing the goat horns by keeping them from scoring.
The Rangers realized they had not played their smartest game. “We were definitely undisciplined,” Hagelin told Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post. “We took a few too many tripping and high-sticking calls. The refs are always going to call those. We have to play smarter.”
Subban Gives Habs New Life
The Canadiens were in some trouble as they took the ice at the start of the third period. Trailing the Rangers 2-1 in the game, the Habs needed to win the period if they wanted to at least extend the game to overtime.
They needed a big goal from one of their snipers. All eyes were on defenseman P.K. Subban as the Canadiens went on a power play at the 32-second mark of the third period when Dominic Moore was called for tripping David Desharnais.
Subban has excelled on the power play throughout the postseason. While he is best known for his big slap shot, he is an exceptional puck carrier, and he is also a precise passer.
Subban realized the desperation of the situation, and he was stationed at his familiar point position as the Habs worked the puck around the Rangers' zone. Subban passed the puck back and forth with Andrei Markov and Desharnais, and the Rangers were starting to chase the puck a bit. Finally, Markov set up Subban with one more pass, and the defenseman stepped into it and let his shot go.
Subban got all of it, and he got a big assist from Brendan Gallagher, who was screening Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers goalie never had a chance, and the Canadiens had their power-play goal and tied the score 2-2 early in the third period.
The Canadiens know that Subban's presence on the power play gives them a big advantage. "When he's shooting from back there, he gives us a chance on that power play," Canadiens captain Brian Gionta told NHL.com. "He's a great weapon for us."
The King Does His Part
Henrik Lundqvist is one game away from playing in the first Stanley Cup Final of his illustrious career.
The King was at his best after the Canadiens had tied the score early in the third period on a power-play blast from P.K. Subban.
After that goal, the Canadiens used their speed and quickness to create scoring opportunities in the Rangers' zone. Lundqvist was not about to let the Canadiens beat him again.
He stopped shots from Brian Gionta and Daniel Briere in the third period, and he made key saves on Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov and Michael Bournival in overtime that kept the Rangers alive.
Lundqvist stopped 27-of-29 Montreal shots, and he regularly squared up to Montreal shooters and gave them little to shoot at when the game was on the line.
“You don’t think about what’s ahead … but it’s exciting too, to know that you’re one game away,” Lundqvist told Steve Serby of the New York Post. “I mean, you have to motivate yourself to get to a level where you’re helping the team, and that’s pretty good motivation right there.”