The Eastern Conference Finals returned to the Bell Centre in Montreal, as game five got underway. The New York Rangers led the series three games to one, and looked to end the series tonight. However, standing in the way were the Montreal Canadiens. They were not going to go away quietly, as they prepared to dig in and attempt a comeback. They did not have to look far for inspiration. As we have seen these playoffs, comebacks have been the leading story. In round two, the New York Rangers were down three games to one against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Los Angeles Kings came back from being down three games against the San Jose Sharks in round one. Knowing they had the Canadiens on the ropes, would the Rangers be able to deliver the knockout blow and continue their march to the Stanley Cup?
Even before the start of the game, Rangers forward Derek Stepan made headlines. As he was seen in his masked gear to guard his broken jaw, feelings of relief and inspiration were felt through New York Rangers fans, worldwide. At game time, Stepan was back with his line mates Rick Nash and Chris Kreider.
As the first twenty minutes got underway, the crowd was loud and present. Twenty-two seconds into the first, Montreal had their first power play. Rangers forward Chris Kreider tripped Canadiens defenseman PK Subban. The scoring opened with a tip from Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk. Subban and Andrei Markov were credited with the assists.
Right from the start of the game, the Canadiens were not going to be pushed around in their house. You could feel the pace of play was being dictated by the Canadiens, making the Rangers play on their heels. At the first commercial break, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist faced six shots on goal, while the Rangers only had one. The team from the north came to play tonight.
At 9:16 of the period, the Rangers got on the board. A wrist shot from Rangers forward Derek Stepan beat Dustin Tokarski, on his low blocker side. Assists were credited to Chris Kreider and Marc Staal. The score became tied and the play of the Rangers picked up.
To answer, the Canadiens went up 2-1 from a wrist shot from forward Tomas Plekanec. Assists were credited to Brian Gionta and Alex Galchenyuk. With that goal, momentum swung back in the Canadiens favor and the “HEN-RIK” chants from the Montreal faithful showered the Rangers goalie.
As the second period got underway, the Rangers were still with 34 seconds of power play carried from the first period. Montreal was able to kill off the penalty and give up no goals.
And just like that, the Canadiens scored again, this time it was Max Pacierotty. He put the puck in Henrik Lundqvist’s five-hole as Montreal went up 3-1. Assists were credited to Brendan Gallagher and Andrei Markov.
As soon as the penalty ended, the Canadiens found the back of the net again. Forward Rene Bourque was able to beat Henrik Lundqvist in front of the crease.
As play stopped, both teams started post whistle pleasantries. Also, the Rangers made a goalie change by putting in Cam Talbot for Lundqvist.
With 10:12 of the period, Rangers forward Rick Nash put the puck on net and it deflected off Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges’ stick, getting pass Tokarski. Assists went to Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider. With the score 4-2, the Rangers ended two unanswered goals by Montreal, and tried to creep back into the game.
At 7:54, the Rangers made it 4-3 off a loose puck pick up by Derek Stepan. Assists were credited to Ryan McDonagh and Chris Kreider, again. The Montreal crowd went quiet, perhaps from the shock of what was happening.
A delayed penalty was called on Tomas Plekanec for embellishment and the Rangers had their fourth power play. It seemed the referees heard the complaints on Montreal’s acts from game three. The comeback from three goals down was complete. Chris Kreider took advantage of an open net after receiving a pass from Ryan McDonagh. The other assist came from Derick Brassard. The score was 4-4.
Rangers were called for a tripping penalty on Benoit Pouliot. The Canadiens received their sixth power play of the game. As the period ended, the Canadiens weren’t able to score but they would still have power play time carried over into the third period.
As the third period got underway, Cam Talbot remained in net. The Montreal Canadiens had 35 seconds left of power play. At 13:27, the Canadiens scored on a Rene Bourque’s hat trick. This time, he took a pass from Dale Weiss and put the puck in the back of the net. The Canadiens went up by two, making the score 6-4.
A penalty was called on Canadiens Josh Gorges for interference on Rick Nash. With that, the Rangers received their third power play of the game. A five on three power advantage resulted from Francis Boullion’s holding penalty. The Rangers had scoring chance, but Dustin Tokarski stood tall and shut the door to the Rangers man-advantage.
A penalty was called on John Moore for a blindside hit on Dale Weiss. Also, he was ejected from the game. Similar to Brandon Prust’s hit on Derek Stepan in game four, Moore will certainly have to answer for his actions on the ice.
With more than four minutes left, head coach Alain Vigneault pulled Cam Talbot in favor of the extra man. However, the Canadiens took advantage of the empty net when David Desharnais scored to make it 7-4. The assist was credited to Lars Eller.
As time trickled down to zero, the Rangers were serenaded by the Belle Centre with the victory chant, “Ole, Ole, Ole.”
And with their win, the Canadiens get one game back, as the Rangers are leading 3-2 with the series switching back to New York and another opportunity for the Rangers to close out the series.
Game six will get underway Thursday at 8:00 pm EST.