NHL takeaways: Habs hand Cup hopes to rook, who steps up big
MAY 23, 2014 6:00a ET
Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final may have set a single-game record for the most bizarre goals. There was Carl Hagelin's tap-in of a rebound that bounced high in the air, there were the two goals in the final three minutes of regulation banked off opponents' skates, and there was Alex Galchenyuk's game-winning header in overtime that gave Montreal life with a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Thursday's win continued a strange recent trend of teams being badly outshot, badly outpossessed -- and winning. Chicago did it in its series-clinching win over Minnesota in the second round, Montreal did it in the same situation vs. Boston, New York did it in the same situation vs. Pittsburgh and the Blackhawks did it again in their Game 1 win over Los Angeles in the Western Conference Final.
And on Thursday, New York outshot Montreal, 37-25.
Hot goaltending is a time-worn playoff cliché, but Canadiens rookie Dustin Tokarski's effort was the difference for Montreal, which looked gassed early in the game and at the end of regulation by New York's speed and depth.
"Dustin Tokarski was phenomenal tonight. He's a battler, and most important thing, he's a winner," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "We weathered the storm and I felt our team played with more confidence as the game went on … but without Tokarski's performance, probably the result would have been different."
Against all odds, the Eastern Conference Final is a contested series.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Hagelin's handiwork: With the game scoreless late in the first period, Rangers center Carl Hagelin stripped Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban of the puck at the New York blue line and skated in on a 2-on-1 with Martin St. Louis. St. Louis' shot bounced off Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges into the air but Hagelin batted it out of the air and past Tokarski.
Andrei Markov's goal: It's hard to pinpoint a turning point in an overtime game, but New York dominated the Canadiens in the first period, outshooting them 14-4 and grabbing a 1-0 lead. But Markov scored a softie early in the second period and the Canadiens got a bit stronger as the game went on, outshooting New York 12-10 in the third period and overtime combined.
1. G Dustin Tokarski, Montreal: The sprawling pad save on Martin St. Louis was the highlight of the night, but the rookie stopped 35 shots in all to earn his first postseason victory.
2. LW Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal: Galchenyuk was nothing more than a moving pylon on the game's defining play, but he was an important pylon with a face that was angled just right to deflect a crazy carom past goalie Henrik Lundqvist for the game-winner. This was his second playoff game after missing the first 14 while recovering from a knee injury.
3. LW Carl Hagelin, New York: Hagelin had five shots and scored the only truly earned goal of the game.
Series: New York leads, 2-1
Key stat: The home team has lost every game in this series.
Key player: LW Brandon Prust, Montreal. Prust's hard and probably late hit on New York forward Derek Stepan altered the tenor of this game. The Rangers were intent on settling that score which meant Prust got under their skin while giving Montreal a little swagger that had been utterly lacking in the first two games.
What we learned: There was little in Thursday's game to suggest that Montreal is ready to turn the tide in this series. New York still looked faster and deeper, as it did in the first two games of the series. But the wild card in this series is rookie goalie Dustin Tokarski, who hasn't allowed a bad goal yet in this series -- just fluky ones. That's more than his erstwhile rock solid counterpart could say. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist allowed his first soft goal of the series, getting beat by Canadiens defenseman Andre Markov to the short side to tie the game in the second period. Montreal center Daniel Briere came within 29 seconds of tying legends Guy LaFleur, Peter Forsberg and Jari Kurri for 11th all time with 14 playoff game-winning goals. Briere got to a loose puck and banked a shot off Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh's skate with 3:02 left in regulation to give Montreal a 2-1 lead. But the Rangers' Chris Kreider decided turnabout was fair play as he banked a shot off Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin's skate with 29 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
Next game: Sunday at New York, 8 p.m. EST
Looking Ahead: Los Angeles' 6-2 win in Chicago in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final gave the Kings home-ice advantage on the Blackhawks. But how much is that really worth? L.A. is just 3-3 at Staples Center in the postseason, the Hawks have won three of their last four games there, including one of the two games during last year’s conference final, and L.A. had the worst home record of any of the West's eight playoff teams this season (23-14-4).
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