Martin St. Louis' goal 6:02 into overtime Sunday night at Madison Square Garden lifted the Rangers past the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Final, and put New York just one win away from advancing to the organization's first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in twnety years.
Now leading this best-of-seven series three games to one, the Rangers will try and close it out Tuesday night up in Montreal when they play Game Five at the Bell Centre.
Henrik Lundqvist made five saves in overtime before St. Louis buried the game-winner past Habs goalie Dustin Tokarski. Brad Richards won a battle for a loose puck, and Carl Hagelin then sent a cross-ice pass to a wide-open St. Louis on right wing. St. Louis patiently skated in and beat Tokarski stick side for his sixth goal of the playoffs, creating pure bedlam inside The Garden in the process.
An evening full of undisciplined play finally caught up to the Rangers early in the third period when the Canadiens broke through with their first power play goal of the series to tie the game, 2-2. After killing off five Montreal power plays in the game, and the first 14 in the conference final, the Rangers saw P.K. Subban hammer a slap shot past a screened Lundqvist at the ten-minute mark of the third--Subban's first goal and point in the series.
Incredibly the Rangers took another penalty--a Brad Richards trip in the offensive zone--just 59 seconds after Subban's goal; but Lundqvist and his teammates killed that one off as again the Blueshirts tempted fate. Six of the eight penalties which the Rangers took leading to Montreal power plays were assessed in the offensive zone, including one for holding the stick by Benoit Pouliot just 30 seconds into overtime. Lundqvist made a pair of brilliant saves on Subban blasts during that penalty kill to keep the score tied.
Montreal also came within inches of taking a late 3-2 lead, but Alex Galchenyuk's shot from between the circles with 3:15 remaining in the third period caught the crossbar and bounced straight out. Lundqvist got a piece of the shot and deflected it upward, making the puck strike the crossbar instead of finding the back of the net.
The Rangers played without center Derek Stepan, who suffered a broken jaw on a Brandon Prust hit in Game Three of this series on Thursday. However they did get Derick Brassard back in the lineup, and he scored New York's second goal of the night. Brassard had missed the previous two games with an unspecified injury suffered in Game One up in Montreal eight days ago.
After seeing their 1-0 lead--built on a Carl Hagelin shorthanded breakaway goal in the first period--disappear when Francis Bouillon scored 8:08 into the second, the Rangers had a string of Grade A scoring chances denied by Tokarski, whose confidence seemed to be growing as the game progressed. However, Brassard brought down the house at The Garden by scoring on yet another breakaway--this one with under a minute to play in the middle period--to give New York a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
Dan Girardi fired a home run pass from near the right-wing boards in his own zone cross ice to Brassard on left wing near the Canadiens blue line to start the scoring play. Brassard, who was in behind the defense, skated to the left circle and hammered a slap shot which beat Tokarski shot side at 19:04 of the second period. The goal was Brassard's fifth of the playoffs. On the play Lundqvist earned the secondary assist, his first career post-season point coming in his 85th playoff game.
Prior to Brassard's clutch goal it appeared that Tokarski was getting on a scary good roll between the pipes for Montreal. He made a sensational diving blocker save on Brassard during a scramble with 8:29 to play in the second, then followed with a stretching toe save on Hagelin's tricky left wing shot two minutes later. Tokarski made the save of the night at 16:50 when he made an utterly sensational glove save on a Marty St. Louis break-in.
Hagelin had given New York a 1-0 lead with the team in the midst of a sloppy start in which the Rangers took three first-period penalties in a span of five minutes. Brian Boyle sprung Hagelin with a long pass behind the Canadiens defense and the fleet winger beat Tokarski between the pads for his team-leading sixth goal of the playoffs 7:18 into the opening period. It was New York's first shorthanded goal this post-season, and Hagelin's second goal in the past two games against Montreal.
The shorthanded tally was the first scored in the playoffs y New York since Ryan Callahan's shortie in the team's 2008 series with the New Jersey Devils. It was the Rangers first shorthanded goal scored on home ice since Esa Tikanen's tally in their 1997 series with the Flyers.
The Canadiens tied it at 8:08 of the second when Bouillon--playing his first game of this series--ripped a left-wing shot past Lundqvist off the rush with David Desharnais assisting.