Saturday, 24 May 2014

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Chris Kreider’s heroics force overtime but NY Rangers fall as Alex Galchenyuk wins game for Canadiens

 Luck couldn't pick a side Thursday night, so the Montreal Canadiens forced its hand.

A tense Eastern Conference finals Game 3 at the Garden concluded with three fortuitous goals favoring both the Habs and the Rangers, but Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk scored the game-winner 72 seconds into overtime, driving the net and deflecting Tomas Plekanec’s rebound in with his throat for a 3-2 Rangers loss that pulled the Canadiens back into the series.

“To be honest, I have no idea what happened,” Galchenyuk, 20, said of second career NHL playoff goal.

Blueshirts rookie Chris Kreider, cast as Montreal’s mortal enemy for knocking Habs goalie Carey Price out for the series in Game 1, had scored the game-tying goal with 28.1 seconds remaining in regulation, jolting a Garden crowd that was biting its nails and holding its breath.

 But Kreider’s tip-in of Dan Girardi’s pass deflected in off the right skate of Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin, just as fortuitous a bounce as on Montreal’s Daniel Briere’s goal off the skate of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh with 3:02 remaining in the third period.

Thirty-five saves by Canadiens third-string goalie Dustin Tokarski, in his first career NHL postseason victory, were the true difference in stealing a game after Henrik Lundqvist had been the story of the Blueshirts snatching the first two games at Bell Centre — although the Habs’ P.K. Subban tweaked Lundqvist after Game 2, saying the goalie had been “getting a little lucky.” After a little luck of its own, Montreal now can even the series in Game 4 at the Garden on Sunday night.

“We played solid throughout 60 minutes, it’s just they worked hard and got a couple of lucky bounces,” said left wing Carl Hagelin, who scored the Rangers’ other goal, in the first period. “Last game they might have been the better team but we won, and tonight we were the better team and they won. It’s just one of those things.”

 Rangers coach Alain Vigneault had called for “unconditional love” from a Garden crowd that wasn’t enormously supportive during the regular season, but instead his team got little love from a nervous arena until Kreider scored late in the third with Lundqvist (22 saves) pulled from his net.

Tokarski made sure it wasn’t a Blueshirt love-fest, though, making two jaw-dropping glove saves on Martin St. Louis, including one with 56 seconds left in regulation. St. Louis (assist) and Hagelin jelled terrifically but couldn’t break through more than once.

“(Tokarski) played really well,” McDonagh said. “We just didn’t defend quite as well, consistently, throughout the game to decline some of their chances.”

 That included Anton Stralman giving Plekanec all kinds of room on the winning goal, Lundqvist allowing a big rebound and Marc Staal being unable to clear Galchenyuk from crashing the crease.

The Rangers outshot Montreal, 37-25, but the Habs got them off their game early with shenanigans from agitator and former Ranger Brandon Prust. Prust threw a vicious, blind-side hit into Rangers center Derek Stepan’s chest and chin, dropping him to the ice 2:55 into the match and sending Stepan to the locker room.

Prust was not penalized, so Dan Carcillo and Derek Dorsett retaliated minutes later, with Dorsett and Prust dropping the gloves. Carcillo, though, was ejected for elbowing linesman Scott Driscoll in the head as he tried to free himself from Driscoll’s grasp to the side of the melee.

 Carcillo could be suspended if the referees decide upon postgame review that he intentionally hit Driscoll, and Prust’s hit no doubt will be reviewed by the league, but in the meantime it meant the Blueshirts had to skate with no more than 11 forwards for the final 57:05 of Game 3 and only 10 forwards for a two-and-a-half-minute stretch of the first period until Stepan returned.

Already playing their second straight game without center Derick Brassard, who is out with an apparent left shoulder injury sustained in Game 1, the Rangers were at a steep disadvantage, and though they got a few bounces, they didn’t get the last and most important one.

“It’s always hard, but this team has shown over the years I’ve been here that we’re pretty even keel,” Hagelin said. “It doesn’t matter what happens. We always come back the game after and play our way. There’s no doubt in this room. Our plan is to win next game.”





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