For a long while there, it looked like the Rangers were going to waste all of the momentum they’d managed to build with two straight victories at Bell Centre and head back to Montreal with their tails between their legs. But then, the man who has dominated New York headlines for the last month struck again.
Martin St. Louis scored 6:02 into overtime Sunday night to give the Rangers a 3-2 victory in Game 4 and a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference Final. They can close out the series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final with a win in Montreal on Tuesday.
All alone, the winger rescued the Rangers from a sloppy, penalty-riddled effort with a roofed shot from the right faceoff circle past Canadiens goaltender Dustin Tokarski to send Madison Square Garden into frenzy.
“I felt I had room and I tried to trust what I saw. Obviously I’ve got to that side quite a bit the last few games and he’s made some good saves on me,” St. Louis said.
“Sometimes you just have to keep trusting what you see and I was fortunate to get it by him.”
The goal came after the puck ricocheted off a scrum near the boards to Carl Hagelin, who one-touched the puck across the ice to St. Louis. The winger paused for a moment, readied himself and then fired to beat Tokarski high glove side. St. Louis has now registered a point in six straight games since the death of his mother France on May 8.
“The goal he scored tonight is exactly what you see in practice every time he’s on the ice, like a hundred pucks,” Alain Vigneault said. “He’s trying to put it right there. He made, obviously, a great shot on that goal.”
“It’s the best feeling in the world, I think, when you see one of your teammates scoring the goal and being the hero,” Derick Brassard said. “If I would have picked someone to score the overtime goal, I think it would be him. He’s a special player and special players score big goals in key moments. We’re just happy for him and with a 3-1 (lead) in the series right now I think we’re feeling pretty good.”
The win was especially sweet coming in a series that has been filled with hard hits, injuries, suspensions and contentious trash talk.
The Canadiens especially have been sounding off, taking shots at the Rangers and even kicking their coaches out of a practice. But if the buildup seemed destined for a fight-marred game, it didn’t happen. The action for the most part was clean, although the Rangers did take nine penalties, resulting in eight Canadiens power plays. The series would be headed back to Montreal tied 2-2 if not for a stingy Rangers penalty kill that stopped seven of them.
The Blueshirts managed to kill off the first five and even scored a shorthanded goal after Brian Boyle sprung Hagelin on a breakaway, the speedy forward beating Tokarski five-hole.
Francis Bouillon scored on a 2-on-1 rush at 8:08 of the second period to tie things up. But Brassard, who rejoined the lineup after missing Games 2 and 3 with a suspected left shoulder injury, put the Blueshirts back in front with a breakaway slap shot with 55.3 seconds to play in the frame.
Brassard’s return helped the Rangers replace the contributions they lost from Derek Stepan, who missed his first game of the postseason after undergoing surgery for a broken jaw he sustained in Game 3 from a brutal hit from ex-teammate Brandon Prust.
The Rangers were finally bitten by the Montreal man advantage two minutes into the third period when P.K. Subban beat Henrik Lundqvist (27 saves) with a blast from the point to tie it. The goal broke a streak of 27 consecutive penalty kills by the Rangers in their last nine games.
Alex Galchenyuk nearly won it for the second consecutive game for the Habs, but his wrist shot with 3:15 to play in regulation deflected off the crossbar and bounced along — but not over — the goal line.
The result was overtime, where Benoit Pouliot quickly committed the Rangers’ ninth penalty of the night 30 seconds in. The Canadiens fired three shots on goal, but Lundqvist and the PK unit held firm. Minutes later it was all over, with the Rangers rushing onto the ice just one win from the Final.
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