New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens: Preview and Prediction for Game 5

Dave Lozo@@davelozoNHL National Lead WriterMay 27, 2014

Eric Bolte/USA Today

The New York Rangers are one victory away from their first Stanley Cup Final berth since 1994.

The Montreal Canadiens are one loss from the end of what has been a magical playoff run.

The Rangers hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series after a 3-2 overtime win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, capped by Martin St. Louis' perfect shot over Dustin Tokarski's glove. 

The Canadiens will look to stave off elimination for three consecutive games, much like the Rangers did in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, starting with Game 5.

When: May 27, 8 p.m. ET

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal


Rangers' Top Storylines

Penalties, penalties, penalties

In Game 4, the Rangers took eight penalties, seven of which occurred in the offensive zone.

The Rangers were so undisciplined that two players found a way to take offensive-zone penalties on their flight to Montreal on Monday.

They played with fire in Game 4 and miraculously were not burned by the Canadiens' power play. PK Subban scored the tying goal on a power play early in the third period, but the Canadiens were just 1-of-8 with the man advantage and allowed a shorthanded goal to Carl Hagelin.

One of life's great mysteries is how closely a playoff game will be officiated, but it's doubtful the Rangers will find themselves in the penalty box as frequently in Game 5. Still, none of the eight penalties in Game 4 were bad calls, so the Rangers will need to be more disciplined Tuesday.

Will Derek Stepan return?

Stepan traveled with the team to Montreal, two days after he had surgery to have a plate inserted into his jaw to stabilize the fracture. The Rangers likely won't say one way or the other until puck drop if their top-line center will return, but he was sorely missed in Game 4.

Dominic Moore filled Stepan's spot in between Rick Nash and Chris Kreider, and the results were underwhelming. Moore was a shotless minus-one in 17:27 of ice time; Nash and Kreider were also held without a point and combined for three shots.

Moore's presence on the first line hurt the value of the fourth line, as J.T. Miller (3:09 of ice time) wasn't very effective before a shoulder injury sent him to the locker room. 

It's not far off to say the Rangers were lucky to win Game 4 with their overall performance, which was in large part due to the absence of Stepan.

Road warriors

The Rangers were the NHL's third-best road team in the regular season with a record of 25-14-2. That trend has continued in the playoffs, as the Rangers are 6-3 away from Madison Square Garden and winners of four straight overall.

During their current four-game road winning streak, the Rangers have outscored their opponents 17-5.

Playing in an elimination game at Bell Centre last year, the Canadiens were blown out by the Ottawa Senators 6-1. That's not likely to happen again this year, but the stars have aligned quite well for the Rangers.

Canadiens' Top Storylines

PK Subban needs to be better

Against the Boston Bruins, Subban was a beast of epic proportions. Sure, Carey Price carried his share of the workload in that upset, but Subban was the best player on either team in that series.

Against the Rangers, Subban is bordering on unmitigated disaster.

He has been a negative Corsi relative player the past three games, and in two games at MSG, he had a 41 percent Corsi. He was caught deep in the offensive zone on Hagelin's shorthanded goal in Game 4 and took a tripping penalty against Rick Nash in the second period.

Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin have been worse overall, but more is expected of Subban because he's the Habs' best player. If he doesn't start playing that way, this series will be over soon.

More from the power play

The one good thing Subban did in Game 4 was score a power-play goal, but as a whole, the Canadiens have been a dumpster fire on the power play.

They are 1-of-17 in this series after going 8-of-25 against the Bruins, and despite Subban's goal, the power play looked mostly inept in Game 4. They generated just eight shots in 14:33 of power-play time.

They spent nearly a quarter of regulation playing with one more man than the Rangers, yet had just eight shots for it.

Drawing on history

In 2010, the Canadiens were down 3-1 in their first-round series with the top-seeded Washington Capitals. Jaroslav Halak turned into a brick wall for the rest of that series, and Montreal rallied to knock out the Caps and advance to the Eastern Conference Final after defeating the Penguins in the conference semifinals.

Weirdly enough, current Ranger Dominic Moore scored the winner in Game 7 of that Caps series. 

There are six Canadiens who will dress for Game 4 who were a part of that comeback, and they see parallels to what is happening now.

Brian Gionta was one of those players, and here's what he said via ASAP Sports transcripts from Monday's media availability.

Well, the guys that were here, you know, you remember the situation and you remember the feelings that you had. At no point in that series did we feel we were out of it, and the same holds true now. We believe in the team that’s in here, and we believe we can win this series.

Prediction: Canadiens 4, Rangers 2 

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveLozo.

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