NEW YORK -- New York Rangers playoff hero Martin St. Louis came up big again for the Blueshirts as he sniped the game-winning goal for New York in overtime to knock off the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 and take a 3-1 series lead heading into Game 5 on Tuesday in Montreal.
The Rangers topped the Habs in overtime despite an uncharacteristically undisciplined game that very well almost cost them control of the series.
Heralded for their discipline all season, the Rangers were nothing of the sort Sunday night, taking a whopping nine penalties, seven of which came in the offensive zone. Rangers forward Benoit Pouliot took a particularly cringe-worthy one just 30 seconds into the overtime period, though the Rangers’ penalty-killing effort allowed them to escape unscathed.
That lack of discipline allowed the Habs to notch the equalizer earlier in the game, however, when P.K. Subban knotted the game 2-2 early in the third period to cash in on the Habs’ sixth power-play of the game.
It was Subban’s first point of the series, and it was a big one as the 25-year-old stud defenseman ripped a slapshot past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at the two minute-mark, sucking the life out of a MSG crowd that was on its feet for the end of the third period.
Subban, who now has five goals in the postseason, handled monster minutes for the Habs Sunday night, logging a team-high 33:16 in ice time (30:35 in regulation).
Problem solved: Habs netminder Dustin Tokarski had a stellar second period with a pair of saves to add to his growing highlight reel.
The 24-year-old robbed Derick Brassard, even while temporarily without his stick, at 8:29 of the third and then made another jaw-dropping stop later in the frame. Robbing Rangers veteran St. Louis (déjà vu, anyone?), Tokarski made a sensational glove save to snag St. Louis’ shot and preserve a 1-1 tie.
But the Rangers solved the young goaltender later in the second, when Brassard pulled up to sizzle a slapshot past him on a breakaway for a 2-1 Rangers lead with less than 56 seconds left on the clock. It was Brassard’s fifth goal of the playoffs, and Lundqvist picked up an assist on the play, the first playoff point of his career.
Funny first: It was both a chippy and choppy opening frame that had little flow as a result of four separate power plays throughout the period.
Though Montreal had three chances on the man-advantage, they couldn’t get anything going, instead surrendering a shorthanded goal to Carl Hagelin for a 1-0 Rangers lead at 7:18.
Lundqvist didn’t give the Habs much to hope for, as he was stellar in the crease. During one particularly memorable sequence, he made a terrific kick-save on Tomas Plekanec and followed up with a lightning-quick pad stop to rob Brian Gionta point-blank on the rebound attempt.
Man down: The Rangers were down a forward for the third time in four games this series, when J.T. Miller was forced from play during the second period.
Racing to the Habs net, Miller was plowed into the goal post by Montreal’s Andrei Markov and appeared to slam his right shoulder into the iron. Miller appeared to be in pain on the Rangers' bench and later went off to the dressing room. He returned to the bench in the third period, but did not play a single shift in the final stanza.
Miller replaced the injured Derek Stepan in the lineup Sunday night, while Stepan recovers at home with a broken jaw sustained in Game 3 on a hit that earned Habs forward Brandon Prust a two-game suspension.
Veteran moves: Defenseman Francis Bouillon, 38, making his first appearance of the series, scored the Canadiens’ first goal on an impressive shot sniped from the left circle that beat Lundqvist at 8:08 of the second. It was his first game in over three weeks; his last appearance was in Game 2 of the team’s second-round series against the Boston Bruins on May 3.