Rangers fly spirit of St. Louis to commanding series lead

Derick Brassard, right, and his Rangers teammates celebrate his goal late in the second period.

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PLAY OF THE DAY

Martin St. Louis goes top shelf: The New York forward was robbed earlier in the game when Montreal goalie Dustin Tokarski snared a shot ticketed for the upper half of the net with his glove. So when St. Louis got another chance alone at the left side of the net in overtime, he elected to go just a little higher, ripping a shot over Tokarski’s shoulder and just under the crossbar to give the Rangers a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Failure to clear the zone: Coaches will tell you it’s the simple, safe plays that give teams consistent chances to win. Montreal’s David Desharnais and Andre Markov both had chances to clear the zone before St. Louis’s game-winning goal, but soft attempts up the boards were held in and Rangers forward Carl Hagelin eventually got the puck across to St. Louis all alone.

THREE STARS

1. RW Martin St. Louis, New York: With a goal on Sunday, St. Louis has three goals and five points in four games against the Canadiens.

 

New York 3, Montreal 2 (OT)

Series: New York leads 3-1.

STANLEY CUP CHASE

Key stat: Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban’s third-period, power-play goal ended a 27-for-27 penalty-killing streak for New York.

Key player: C Derick Brassard, New York. After missing the last two games with an injury, Brassard returned to the lineup and scored the Rangers’ second goal on a partial breakaway that he blew past Canadiens goalie Dustin Tokarski.

What we learned: Nothing is going to derail these Rangers from their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years. New York blew two leads, surrendered its first power-play goal in nine games and the Rangers were continually thwarted by Tokarski, whose glove save on Martin St. Louis was the best of several gems. None of that mattered. The Rangers kept applying pressure to Montreal’s beleaguered defense, goalie Henrik Lundqvist rescued the Rangers whenever necessary and St. Louis was on the money when it counted in overtime. It’s too early to write off Montreal in a playoff season in which L.A. has erased a 3-0 series deficit and the Rangers rallied from down 3-1 against Pittsburgh. Yet while the smart money says the Rangers would be overmatched against Chicago or Los Angeles in the Stanley Cup Final due to the season-long superiority of the Western Conference and the experience those two teams have as recent Cup winners, this New York team is a wild card because it is playing its best hockey of the season when it matters most and it has the key ingredients for playoff success: balanced scoring, depth at the center position, a terrific penalty-killing unit and that guy in net, who tied Mike Richter for the franchise lead with his 41st playoff win.

Next game: Tuesday at Montreal, 8 p.m. ET

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