The Montreal Canadiens faced a near must win situation last night, as they looked to avoid falling into a three games to none hole against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.
They did avoid the 0-3 trap, and Game 3 started out with a bang. That bang was courtesy of Brandon Prust planting an enormous hit on Derek Stepan less than three minutes into the contest. Stepan remained on the ice for some time, and many believed the hit was suspension worthy. However, Prust was not penalized on the play, and Stepan did return to action before the end of the period.
Just a few minutes later, Ranger winger Daniel Carcillo took a run at Prust and hit the Habs forward from behind. This led to a charging penalty, and a fight between Prust and Carcillo’s linemate Derek Dorsett. Carcillo, after deciding to run Prust from behind instead of attempt to fight him, then decided he would throw a few jabs at the linesman. He was thrown out of the game and faces the likelihood of a severe suspension for his actions.
The two teams then finally got down to playing some hockey, but it was the Rangers who would dominate the period. New York outshot Montreal 14-4 in the opening 20 minutes, and carried a 1-0 lead into the first break thanks to a Carl Hagelin goal.
Hagelin carried the puck in on a two on one with Martin St Louis and fed a pass to the veteran sniper. Meanwhile, Habs defenseman Josh Gorges slid into Canadiens goaltender Dustin Tokarski as he attempted to block the pass. When St Louis took the shot, it appeared there was nothing between him and the empty net, but Gorges somehow reached out his left hand and knocked the puck into the air.
Unfortunately for the Habs, the puck went almost straight up and began to fall back towards the crease. Before it reached the ice, Hagelin, who was still left all alone at the top of the crease, batted it out of the air and made it 1-0.
The Canadiens played a better, but not great, second period. They were still outshot, but closed the gap in the middle frame as they countered the Rangers 13 shots with 9 of their own. Andrei Markov tied the game when he picked up a beautiful cross ice pass from Max Pacioretty and quickly snapped the puck between the legs of Henrik Lundqvist.
The game remained tied until late in the third period, when an old playoff veteran stepped up for the Habs. Thomas Vanek had a chance in close and fired a shot wide of the net. When it bounced behind the goal, Daniel Briere, the playoff wizard, scooped up the loose puck and slid it into the Rangers crease. A diving Ryan McDonagh and an outstretched Lundqvist combined to do the rest of the work as the Ranger defenseman kicked the puck into his own net with just three minutes to play.
The Canadiens hung on for dear life the final few minutes and it finally cost them with just 30 seconds to play. With the Rangers applying all kinds of pressure, and Tokarski having just flat out robber St Louis of a goal, their desperation increased.
Defeseman Dan Girardi threw a puck toward the net that tipped of Chris Kreider’s stick and then bounced off Alexei Emelin’s skate and landed in the back of the Habs net. The game was tied and overtime was needed.
Overtime did not last long, as just 1:12 into the frame the Canadiens Tomas Plekanec fired a soft wrist shot on goal off a two on two rush with the speedy Alex Galchenyuk. The young winger drove to the net and the Plekanec shot rebounded up in the air and bounced off the chin of Galchenyuk and into the Rangers goal.
It was a strange one, but the Canadiens needed that goal desperately. Thanks to the Galchenyuk goal the Habs avoided a 3-0 series deficit and are now alive again in the series.