The Montreal Canadiens did not have Carey Price to tend goal in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final Monday night at the Bell Centre, but the Rangers most definitely had their ace between the pipes, and Henrik Lundqvist was a major reason the Rangers skated to a 2-0 series lead with a 3-1 road victory. Lundqvist made 40 saves in Game Two for the Rangers, who have now won five straight games in the playoffs dating to Game Five of the second round against Pittsburgh.
Lundqvist was at his best in the early stages of the contest as a revved-up Canadiens team blitzed the Rangers early and often in front of a deafening crowd at the Bell Centre; and even though Montreal scored the game's first goal off a fluky bounce, Lundqvist was a brick wall Monday night. He has allowed only six goals during the five-game winning streak, and he now owns a 10-6 record in this post-season.
At the other end of the ice was 24 year-old rookie Dustin Tokarski, selected by Montreal head coach Michel Therrien to start in the place of Price, the Olympic gold medalist who suffered an undisclosed injury during a Game One collision with New York's Chris Kreider and was pronounced unable to play for the remainder of this series by Therrien following Monday's morning skate. Tokarski, who led Norfolk to the AHL championship three years ago, but who had just ten games of NHL experience, allowed first period goals to Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash, and a second-period score to Martin St. Louis, while finishing with 27 saves.
After losing the series opener on home ice, 7-2, on Saturday afternoon, the Canadiens got the start they wanted--and needed with Price sidelined--when Max Pacorietty was credited with his fourth goal of the playoffs 6:14 into the first period. The goal came following heavy forecheck pressure in the Rangers defensive zone and a subsequent turnover in front of his own net by Mats Zuccarello. The bouncing puck went off Pacorietty and past Lundqvist, who had held Montreal at bay right from the get go when Rene Bourque had three point-blank chances to score just 35 seconds into the game, but was denied all three times by Lundqvist.
With the crowd whipped into a frenzy and the public address announcer still announcing Pacorietty's goal, the Rangers responded with a goal of their own just 17 seconds later. McDonagh's left-point shot deflected off Montreal's Josh Gorges in front of Tokarski, and the puck then bounced off the near post and into the net at 6:31, tying the game 1-1. The goal was McDonagh's second of the series and third of the playoffs, and it quieted the raucous crowd, coming on only New York's second shot against Tokarski.
Lundqvist got the better of Pacorietty with 4:11 remaining in the first when he robbed the Canadiens winger who ripped a shot from the slot following yet another Rangers turnover. Lundqvist made 13 saves in the opening period, and gave his team the backing they needed when Montreal applied heavy pressure for much of the period.
That stellar work in goal paid off in a big way when Nash scored for the second straight game, this time with 62 seconds to play in the first, letting New York carry a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Nash buried a one-timer from right wing on a cross-ice pass from Kreider, the certified Public Enemy No. 1 in the minds of Montreal fans.
Lundqvist was called on early in the second period to make several difficult saves--including one in which he stoned Lars Eller on the doorstep just 1:49 into the period--and the Rangers proceeded to slowly settle the game down and turn it in their favor with a stronger transition game. Solid work on the forecheck by all four lines turned the tide in New York's favor with seemingly everyone from Nash and Derek Stepan at the top to Derek Dorsett and Brian Boyle on the bottom feeding off one another.
St. Louis--whose mother's funeral was held the previous day outside of Montreal--continued his magical and emotional recent run by scoring his fifth of the playoffs at 8:03 of the second period to put the visitors on top 3-1. With Alex Galchenyuk in the penalty box for a tripping minor, St. Louis snapped a one-timer from between the circles past Tokarski, giving him five points during the winning streak. The goal was New York's fourth on the power play in this series already.
Derek Stepan made the quick, sweet pass to set up St. Louis' goal, his second assist of the night. McDonagh also earned an assist on the power play goal, giving him six points in the first two games of this series.
The Rangers were forced to play without center Derick Brassard, who sat out with an undisclosed injury. Brassard was hurt in the first period of Saturday's game, playing just two shifts before being shut down. He took part in the morning skate Monday, but was not able to play in Game Two.