(Tuesday, May 27th)
Final Score: Montreal 7, NY Rangers 4
Montreal, QC (SportsNetwork.com) – Rene Bourque notched his first career postseason hat trick, and the Montreal Canadiens staved off elimination with a sloppy yet entertaining 7-4 decision over the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals from Bell Centre.
“It was a happy moment, especially when this team was facing elimination,” Bourque said. “Everyone was ready for this game in a tense situation. After they tied it, we had to settle down. We had to make it work again to bounce back. We’ve been here before; we have to relax and get back to the basics instead of running around.”
Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk added a goal and assist each for the Canadiens, who received additional tallies from Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais.
Andrei Markov added three helpers, Lars Eller and Dale Weise assisted on a pair of scores apiece, while Dustin Tokarski stopped 23 shots in the victory.
Derek Stepan returned from a broken jaw to net a pair of goals for the Rangers, who battled back from a 4-1 deficit but get another chance to close out the series on home ice in Game 6 on Thursday.
Chris Kreider contributed a goal and three assists and Rick Nash also tallied. Cam Talbot surrendered two goals on eight shots in relief of Henrik Lundqvist, who exited after yielding four goals on 19 chances.
Bourque was sent up the middle thanks to a Weise pass that eluded two Rangers players and completed his trifecta at 6:33 of the third period, giving the Habs a 6-4 advantage.
The Rangers were handed a chance to get closer with a 33-second 5-on-3 power play after Habs defenders Josh Gorges and Francis Bouillon were whistled for infractions, but failed to draw closer. Tokarski made three saves and the final seconds of the 5-on-4 were cancelled when John Moore was given a match penalty for charging at Weise and leveling him with an elbow to the head.
Montreal mostly fumbled the puck away during the ensuing five-minute edge, and Eller’s holding call erased the final 90 seconds of that power play.
Shortly after New York gained a manpower edge, and with Talbot on the bench for an extra skater, Desharnais hit the empty net for a 7-4 score with 4:17 to play.
Talbot was yanked once more for another Rangers’ power play with 3 1/2 remaining, and Kreider was stopped twice on the doorstep by Tokarski with 2:10 on the clock to preserve the three-goal margin.
The Canadiens used forechecking to protect their lead down the stretch, missing several more chances at the vacant cage.
“We still have the series lead. We’ll go home and correct those errors we made tonight,” Talbot noted. “We remain confident. This was a good one for the fans to see, but we’re disappointed on our end. We’ll turn the page for the next game.”
Montreal gained the game’s first power play when Kreider tripped P.K. Subban after just 22 seconds. The reigning Norris Trophy winner’s left-point shot was tipped past Lundqvist by Galchenyuk in front at 1:48.
After nine minutes elapsed, Tokarski dove from right to left to deny Carl Hagelin off a 2-on-1 break, which caused the rising shot to carom off the knob of his stick and the crossbar before sailing out of play.
“It was a roller coaster. The guys kept on fighting, battled the whole way. When it was a tie game, we’re at home and the crowd’s behind us, we stayed focused and it worked out,” Tokarski admitted. “On a couple of instances, I challenged them pretty well, and (this) time I was fortunate to get a piece of the puck with my stick.”
New York tied the game at 10:44 on the rush, with Kreider feeding Stepan in the neutral zone and the latter fooling three Habs checkers and Tokarski with a flip from near the blue line.
Lundqvist was then surprised by a rip from Plekanec between two Rangers defenders, letting the shot tick off his glove for a 2-1 Habs edge with 7:36 remaining.
The hosts went up 3-1 at 3:44 of the second period, as Brendan Gallagher’s backhanded pass while falling along the left-wing boards found an open Pacioretty for a successful right-circle try.
Bourque then pumped one home from in close just after a Canadiens power play expired to give Montreal a three-goal edge at 6:54.
Talbot entered the contest after a scrum just shy of the nine-minute mark, and his team got back within two as Nash spun a shot from a sharp angle on the left wing which caromed off Gorges’ stick and past Tokarski.
It was 4-3 when Stepan followed up a loose puck from a right-wing Nash try and slid it home from the slot with 7:54 to play in the middle frame, and the visitors tied the game on the advantage just over two minutes later when Kreider backhanded a Ryan McDonagh pass from atop the crease.
Bourque untied the contest only 58 seconds later on a laser from the high slot on which Talbot was slow to react.
“We had to work harder when it was 4-4 in the second, but that wasn’t the case later on. The decision on ice against Moore was the right one; the penalty was correct, but Moore is not that kind of player,” added Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault.
Tuesday’s contest matched the highest single-game goal total for a playoff matchup between the clubs, after the Canadiens posted an 8-3 win over the Rangers in Game 3 of the semifinals on March 30, 1957 … Bourque is the first member of the Habs to record a home playoff hat trick since Eric Desjardins on June 3, 1993 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals in a 3-2 overtime win against Los Angeles … Andrei Kostitsyn was the last Habs player to score three times in a postseason tilt, in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on April 17, 2010 in Game 2 of the Eastern quarterfinals … Montreal’s output was its most since claiming a 7-4 home victory over Hartford on April 27, 1992 in Game 5 of the Adams Division semifinals … Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin did not dress due to an undisclosed injury … Brandon Prust, who drew a two-game suspension for the hit which injured Stepan, will be eligible to return in Game 6 … Kreider’s four points were a playoff career best, and he became the first Ranger to record three points in one period since Jaromir Jagr on April 17, 2007 in Game 3 of the Eastern quarters vs. Atlanta.