NEW YORK, N.Y. – If Henrik Lundqvist was lucky in Montreal, his good fortune ran out under the bright lights of Broadway.
Lundqvist was stellar in claiming the first two wins of the Eastern Conference finals for the Rangers over the Canadiens on the road. But Montreal exacted a bit of revenge in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.
Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban said Lundqvist was “getting a little bit lucky.” Lundqvist had no problem using some luck to his advantage, but losing a 3-2 heartbreaker in overtime was pretty tough to stomach Thursday night.
“It’s tough luck, that’s for sure,” Lundqvist said after Alex Galchenyuk’s goal 1:12 into overtime cut the Canadiens’ series deficit to 2-1. “It’s extremely disappointing to lose this one.
“We played really well, but we just have to forget it. Move on, and get ready for the next one.”
That will come Sunday in Game 4 at the Garden. The Rangers know they will have to go back to Montreal at least once more, and they surely want to head there with a 3-1 series lead as opposed to a 2-2 tie.
“This is a good team. They just beat Boston,” Rangers forward Martin St. Louis said. “We tried to get it done, but we are up 2-1 in the series and we play a home game on Sunday. We still have a great opportunity to do something great.”
The Rangers were done in ultimately by Galchenyuk, but his heroics were set up by the fine goaltending of Montreal third-stringer Dustin Tokarski.
In his second career NHL playoff game, the 24-year-old Tokarski stopped 35 shots and bounced back from a potentially crushing goal in the final seconds of regulation to lift the Canadiens to the stirring win.
“I did everything I could,” said Tokarski, filling in for the injured Carey Price. “I played the same game all the way. I felt more comfortable as it went along.
“So glad we overcame that late bounce and got the winner.”
Chris Kreider, whose collision with Price in the opener led to the goalie’s series-ending injury, netted the tying goal with 28.1 seconds left to offset Danny Briere’s go-ahead tally for Montreal with 3:02 remaining in regulation.
Galchenyuk scored 13 goals in 65 regular-season games, and he had one previous playoff goal in six career games.
“To be honest, I have no idea what happened,” Galchenyuk said. “(Tomas Plekanec) put it on net and it bounced off my stick or hit me. It went in, and the celebration started from there.”
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien made the surprise decision to start the inexperienced Tokarski in Game 2 instead of veteran Peter Budaj, who was shaky in relief of Price in Game 1.
Tokarski played well in the 3-1 loss on Monday and stopped 27 shots. He validated his coach’s decision to stick with him during the first game of the series on enemy ice.
“Dustin Tokarski was phenomenal,” Therrien said. “He’s a battler, and most important thing, he’s a winner.
“I felt our team played with more confidence as the game went on, and (the Rangers) got a break at the end to tie the game up. But without Tokarski’s performance, probably the result would have been different.”
New York had its five-game winning streak snapped, and its run of six straight victories over the Canadiens also ended. The Rangers fell to 1-1 in overtime in these playoffs. The Canadiens are 3-1.
Montreal was poised to win it in regulation after Briere scored. Kreider tied it when his shot hit the sliding right skate of defenceman Alexei Emelin in the crease and caromed past Tokarski, who thrust his head upward in disgust as the Garden shook.
“It was an emotional game,” Galchenyuk said. “It was tough coming back in the locker room, but we focused. We have a character team, and we bounced back.”
Briere’s goal also was aided by an opposing defenceman, as Ryan McDonagh nudged the puck past Lundqvist.
Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov tied it at 1 for the Canadiens in the second period after Carl Hagelin staked New York to the lead in the first. Lundqvist made 22 saves.
The Rangers grabbed the lead in a first period that featured only one goal but hardly lacked for action.
By the time Hagelin put New York in front with a batted shot, there had already been one injury as the result of a questionable open-ice hit by Brandon Prust on Derek Stepan, and an ejection after Daniel Carcillo sought revenge on Prust—a former Rangers fan favourite—for his levelling of Stepan.
Prust landed a blindsided shot to Stepan’s chest with his shoulder 4:48 in, knocking down Stepan, who remained on the ice for several moments before skating off. Stepan returned later in the period. Prust heard boos the rest of the game.
Carcillo’s night ended about three minutes later when he rammed Prust from behind in back of the Canadiens net. Carcillo earned a penalty for charging, and Prust then fought Derek Dorsett. Carcillo tried to get free from linesman Scott Driscoll to join the fray, and elbowed Driscoll in the process and was ejected.
He could face a lengthy NHL suspension.
“He can’t do what he did there, but we’ll let the league handle that,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “I believe if a penalty would have been called on Prust, it probably wouldn’t have happened, but there is nothing we can do about it.”
The Rangers killed the penalty, and then got on the board.
Hagelin raced up ice on a 2-on-1 with St. Louis and sent a pass to him on the right. St. Louis fired a quick shot that was blocked in the crease by defenceman Josh Gorges, but the puck popped up. Hagelin deftly batted it in for his fifth of the playoffs—tied for the team lead—with 4:42 left in the first.
New York used its speed to build a 14-4 shots edge in the opening period.
Max Pacioretty set up Markov’s goal when he sent a pass from the left-wing boards across the Rangers zone into the right circle to Markov, who ripped his first of the post-season past Lundqvist at 3:21 of the second.
NOTES: The Rangers were without forward Derick Brassard for the second straight game because of an upper-body injury in the series opener. … New York is 10-2 in series it has led 2-0. … The Rangers haven’t allowed a power-play goal in eight games, their longest playoff streak since a 10-game run in 1940.