The Montreal Canadiens find themselves trailing the New York Rangers 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Final, and will be without their number one goaltender and most valuable player in Carey Price as they attempt to stage a comeback and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Though it seems bleak, and fans confidence in the team is waning, all is not lost just yet for this year’s Montreal Canadiens.
The Habs played perhaps their worst game of the postseason in Game 1, a 7-2 drubbing on home ice at the hands of the Rangers. In the process, they also lost Price to a knee injury and though they rolled over in the third period of Game 1, they bounced back in Game 2.
With Dustin Tokarski making his first start in the National Hockey League since March 16th, and first even NHL postseason appearance, the Habs came out flying in Game 2. Montreal stormed the Rangers end, and opened the scoring on a Max Pacioretty goal just over 6 minutes into the frame.
Unfortuately, Ryan McDonagh would fire a point shot that bounced off Josh Gorges leg and found its way just inside the post of the Habs goal, tying the game just 17 seconds later. New York took the lead with 1:02 to play in the period on a Rick Nash slap shot, that bounced off the arm of Tokarski before making its way over the line.
The Canadiens were down 2-1 after 20 minutes, but had controlled the play for long stretches and outshot the Rangers 14-9. They deserved a better fate that a 2-1 deficit.
The Canadiens took their foot off the gas in period two, and Martin St Louis made them pay, when a perfect one timer on the power play beat Tokarski just inside the post and crossbar 8:03 into the middle frame. Montreal was outplayed in the second period, but only allowed one power play goal, and came right back at the Rangers in the third.
The Habs absolutely dominated the third period, firing 19 shots at Henrik Lundqvist in the Rangers goal. Lundqvist was up to the task, and if not for several big saves by the Swedish netminder, the Habs could have closed the gap.
As the final buzzer sounded the Rangers held on to their 3-1 lead which gives them the all important two games to zero edge in the series. However, the Canadiens have plenty of reasons to be optimistic heading into Madison Square Garden for Game 3.
Their top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher dominated the Rangers throughout Game 2. As a line, they took 24 shots attempts at 5 on 5 while New York was only able to attempt three shots when Montreal’s best unit was playing. Only one of those Ranger shots actually hit the net, while Montreal’s trio had nine shots. Their third line of Lars Eller, Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta was not as dominant, but had 54% of the shot attempts while on the ice.
Dustin Tokarski may have allowed three goals on 30 shots, but he played well, and kept the game close when the Rangers had a two goal lead. He may not be able to match the play of Lundqvist, or replace Price, but the Habs should be confident they will receive a good performance from their inexperienced goaltender.
The Canadiens have also played great on the road this postseason. They opened their playoffs with a pair of victories in Tampa Bay to take a 2-0 lead right out of the gate. They were also able to split four games in Boston in the second round, one of the toughest buildings for visitors all season. Montreal won Game 1 in Boston, and then won Game 7 by a score of 3-1. MSG should not intimidate this team in any way.
The Canadiens are certainly not in an envious position after hosting a pair of games in this series, but if they can get a little more our of their second line of Tomas Plekanec, Tomas Vanek and Alex Galchenyuk, they will have three lines capable of scoring on any shift.
The Habs may be down, but they are far from out of this series.