Latest posts by Ray Sarlo (see all)
Going into game two of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Final series vs. Montreal, the Rangers looked to win consecutive games after taking a lead in a series for only the third time since 2012.
To start, the pace of was much better than that of game one. The players at least pretended there was a puck on the ice instead of trying to just hit each other for ten straight minutes.
Henrik Lundqvist’s shutout streak against Montreal since game one was short-lived, however. The Canadiens scored their first goal of the game and of the series at 4:05 of the first period. Lundqvist’s stick was broken in an odd play as Gallagher skated through the crease and made contact. Lundqvist was unable to get another stick from his teammates, even after almost 45 seconds elapsed between losing the stick and the goal being scored. And then, as the Canadiens streaked back into the zone for the second time, Jeff Petry received a pass at the faceoff dot and was given all the time in the world by the Rangers’ defenders as he picked his spot top shelf on the stick-less Lundqvist to give the Habs the lead. Lundqvist was furious and it was unclear whether he was frustrated with himself, the poor fortune of his stick breaking, the awful display of defending on the goal, or a combination of the three.
What followed was continuous action where both teams had some benign scoring chances. Lundqvist also made a nice stop on Paul Byron on a breakaway after Girardi lost control of the puck at the Montreal blue line.
The Rangers would tie the game 1-1 shortly after as Michael Grabner scored on a breakaway at 13:49. J.T. Miller blocked a pass at the Rangers blue line and passed it to Grabner who turned on the jets and put on some serious moves that put Carey Price’s jock in the rafters somewhere among the twenty-five Canadiens’ Stanley Cup banners.
The Canadiens answered back rather quickly after Holden made a bad breakout pass that Chris Kreider had trouble collecting. Gallagher picked up the loose puck and streaked into the zone, shooting on Lundqvist. Lundqvist had some trouble controlling the rebound on the initial shot off the rush and Gallagher beat the Rangers defense to the puck behind the net. He passed it to Byron in front who shot past a kneeling Mats Zuccarello and past the Rangers netminder.
The Rangers received the first power play of the game at 4:59 of the second period that expired without a Rangers shot on goal. After the power play, Steve Ott flattened Zuccarello in the corner which drew a lot of attention and found Shea Weber, Jordie Benn, Zuccarello, and Miller in the penalty box. The referees determined the Rangers were more culpable and they came out with one extra penalty. The Canadiens had a few good chances on their power play, but Lundqvist turned them all away nicely.
The Rangers would again tie the game. This time Rick Nash found the back of the net to tie the game 2-2 halfway through the middle frame. Jimmy Vesey received a nice breakout pass from Nick Holden and Vesey shuffled it over to a streaking Nash who sniped it high glove side on Carey Price.
Soon after, the Blueshirts found themselves killing another penalty as Skjei hauled down Gallagher in front of Lundqvist. But with Weber still in the penalty box serving a fighting major, the Canadiens could not get anything of value going.
The Rangers eventually took the lead for the first time with a little more than 5 minutes remaining in the second period thanks to a Mats Zuccarello goal. Brendan Smith received the puck at the point from Stepan and he slap passed it to Zuccarello who was on the open side of the net and put it in off his leg.
On the ensuing faceoff, the Canadiens took a tripping penalty. Unsurprisingly, the Rangers generated little pressure on their power play after failing to gain the zone multiple times.
The Rangers got another chance on the power play with just over a minute remaining in the period as Radulov got his stick up in Miller’s face but were unable to convert what little time they had left. Instead, they took the man advantage into the third period.
Unfortunately, immediately after it expired, the Rangers committed a penalty of their own as Zuccarello held Byron’s stick. For the time of the night Shea Weber was on the ice for the power play. Despite the Canadiens seeming to have a bit more structure on the man advantage, the result was the same as the previous attempts and the Rangers killed off the penalty.
Much of the third period was highly contested with both teams fighting for every inch of the ice. The Rangers engaged their well-known defensive shut down strategy of chipping the puck in deep at every available opportunity and attacking with one forechecker while four defenders waited in the neutral zone.
With 90 seconds left in the game, the Canadiens pulled Price to the bench for an extra skater. The Rangers were 18 seconds away from taking a 2-0 series lead back to the Garden but Tomas Plekanec scored to tie the game. Nick Holden lost Plekanec in front of the net and he was able to tip Radulov’s pass from the corner past Lundqvist for a late dagger. Why the Holden/Staal pair, who were struggling so far in the series, were on the ice for the final minute is a mystery that only Alain Vigneault can speak to.
Overtime began with both teams getting their fair share of chances, but Kreider took a bad slashing penalty, giving the Canadiens their fourth man advantage. Fortunately, the Rangers held strong, but were overmatched. They were never able to get any sort of sustained offensive pressure going, and with just over a minute to go in the overtime period, Radulov scored the game-winner, jamming at a slow-moving puck that was floating between Hank’s pads.
The Blueshirts get a chance at redemption on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
Henrik Lundqvist made 54 saves on 58 shots, a personal playoffs record for him; Ryan McDonagh skated more than 30 minutes tonight (33:12); The Rangers were credited with 74 hits to Montréal’s 55; They also went 0-for-3 on the power play but were 51% on faceoffs.