Article written by Simon Aronson.
In what was without a doubt the Canadiens best played game of the Eastern
Conference Final they were not able to get the win on Sunday night, losing on a
perfectly placed shot from Martin St. Louis in overtime to fall 3-2. The Habs
now face a 3-1 series deficit and will have to win the next three games in order
to stay alive and advance in this year’s playoffs. However tough the odds are,
it is not an impossible task and one has to look no further than the second
round of these playoffs where the Rangers were able to complete the same
comeback against the favoured Penguins.
In the first period, Montreal got off to a less than ideal start giving up a
shorthanded goal to Carl Hagelin when he was able to get behind P.K. Subban and
Andrei Markov on a misplayed pinch and beat Dustin Tokarski on the breakaway.
The Canadiens had chance to even the score in the first with another powerplay
opportunity shortly after they surrendered the first goal but they were unable
to do so to trail by one after 20 minutes.
In the second, the Canadiens evened the score eight minutes in when Francis
Bouillon beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot over his glove while on a 2-on-1 with
David Desharnais. Tokarski helped the Habs stay even making key stops including
a highlight reel glove save robbing St. Louis on a breakaway. In what has been a
trend in this series, Montreal gave up a goal with 56 seconds remaining in the
frame as the Rangers caught the Habs on a bad line change and Derick Brassard
beat Tokarski with a breakaway slapper from between the dots.
Montreal evened the score again two minutes into the third on a powerplay
when a Subban slapper from the point found its way through Lundqvist. The
Canadiens were getting better as the game went on and they carried the play for
the majority of the final period with included Alex Galchenyuk ringing a shot
off the crossbar, but in the end the game would go into extra time. In the extra
frame, the Canadiens received a powerplay 30 seconds in but were not able to end
the game. Despite not scoring on the powerplay, the momentum the Habs had
generated in the third seemed to have carried over into OT as they were skating
well and winning the possession battle. The game came to an end when Desharnais,
Markov, and Emelin failed to clear the puck out of the defensive zone and
Hagelin found St. Louis behind the defence and he ended the game on a perfectly
placed wrister over Tokarski’s shoulder.
The story of the game in the end was the missed opportunities and defensive
breakdowns at the wrong times. Montreal had eight powerplays over the course of
the game including one in overtime but they were only able to capitalize once,
that is simply not good enough. The three goals the Rangers scored, including
the shorthanded one were all on plays where the Ranger forward was allowed to
come in alone on Tokarski. That will have to be addressed, as those types of
mistakes are not acceptable in an Eastern Conference final or at any other point
in the season.
HW 3 Stars
First Star: Dustin Tokarski
The rookie goaltender played an essentially flawless game, making many big
saves. He can not be faulted on any of the goals given up.
Second Star: David Desharnais
Although he finished with a -2 and only won 7 of the 25 faceoffs he was one of
Montreal’s better players. He was sound defensively despite the minus rating and
was all over the ice causing problems for the Rangers and creating scoring
chances. He finished with 2 assists.
Third Star: Tomas Plekanec
Plekanec was consistent all night playing a well-rounded 2-way game as usual and
finished with an even rating. He was the only Hab that won more faceoffs then
they lost on this night.
Honourable Mention: Brendan Gallagher
As always Gallagher’s compete level was at the max he battled all night and
provided the screen on Subban’s powerplay marker.