NEW YORK, N.Y. – Canadiens coach Michel Therrien says he consulted with team leaders after making the decision to go with newcomer Dustin Tokarski in goal in the wake of Carey Price’s injury.
Therrien opted for the 24-year-old Tokarski, who had just 10 NHL games under his belt, over veteran backup Peter Budaj. Price was injured in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers.
“I sat down with our captain, Brian Gionta, and (assistant captain) Josh Gorges and they understand and they felt good about the decision,” Therrien told reporters Friday ahead of Game 4 Sunday. “That’s what it was for me. Yes, the players really bought into our decision.”
Tokarski, a native of Humboldt, Sask., lost his NHL playoff debut 3-1 to New York in Game 2. But he stopped 35 shots in helping the Habs to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Rangers in Game 3 Thursday.
“We’ve got confidence in the kid,” said Therrien. “The kid’s a gamer. He battles. He’s proven it in the past and that’s why we based our decision.
“We’ve got the luxury to (have) three good goalies. We’ve got the luxury to have Carey Price, one of the best in the league, obviously. We all know that. We’ve got the luxury to have Peter Budaj, good teammate, working hard, great attitude. He’s won some big games for us this year, big games. We threw him out there in Boston this year and he won those games. He’s been a good teammate, and right now we’ve got a young goalie who is doing a phenomenal job.
“We’ve got three great people and three great athletes.”
Tokarski’s NHL record is 4-4-1 with a 2.85 goals-against average, .908 save percentage and one shutout in 12 career appearances (regular season and playoffs).
Tokarski is just the fifth goalie to earn his first playoff win in the conference final or later since 1975, joining Dwayne Roloson (1999), Martin Gerber (2006), Jussi Markkanen (2006) and Mike Smith (2011).
There were several other marks of note in Thursday’s game.
It was the first time in NHL conference final history that a tying goal was scored in the final 30 seconds and the winning goal was scored in the first 90 seconds of overtime, according to Elias Sports. (It was the sixth time in the 2014 playoffs that a team has tied the game in the final minute of regulation).
And Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk, at 20 years 99 days, becomes the youngest Canadien to score an OT goal in the playoffs—a record previously held by Gus Rivers (20 years, 129 days).
Galchenyuk also became the second player age 20 or younger to score in overtime this post-season. Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon (18 years, 237 days) became the second-youngest player in NHL history to score an overtime goal in the playoffs when he did so in Game 5 of the first round against Minnesota.
While the Canadiens cut the series deficit to two games to on, history still favours the Rangers.
According to Elias, the last 11 NHL teams to win the first two games of a playoff series on the road went on to win the series.