The Canadiens blew 1-0 and 2-1 leads and the Rangers took a 3-2 lead in the third period. All three of the goals were the result of defensive blunders, two by Nathan Beaulieu and then on the go-ahead goal Shea Weber.
With the prospect of dropping their second game on home ice, the Canadiens buckled down and came back and won the game on a last minute goal by Tomas Plekanec and an overtime winner from Alexander Radulov.
MONEY MAN –
One of the things that surfaced in my pre-game research was the difference between Alexander Radulov’s point production in playoffs compared to his regular seasons. Going into the game he was scoring at a rate of 0.71 points per playoff game; by far the best ratio on the Canadiens. Radulov piled on three more points including the winning goal. It was his pass in front that allowed Plekanec to score the goal that sent the game into overtime and he was in front battling on the game winner. It makes you wonder what the Nashville Predators were thinking when they suspended him in that losing 2008 playoff series, Radulov now has 17 points in 20 career playoff games.
Much was made of the fact that the Plekanec/Byron/Gallagher line managed only one shot on goal in Game One. There was little mention after the game that the line did excellent job of keeping the top Ranger line off the scoresheet. They had the same job in Game Two and this time, not only did they shut them down for the most part; they dominated them physically and tactically.
Plekanec won 63% of his faceoffs. Together the line produced 15 shots on goal and 14 hits with Byron leading the Canadiens with eight of them. . Claude Julien was to say after the game that he put Plekanec on the ice to take the faceoff with 30 seconds left in regulation time because he had been dominating the Rangers all night in that department. His faceoff win led to the tying goal.
If the Plekanec line was the Canadiens best, his right wing Brendan Gallagher was the game’s best player. In both games in this series, Gallagher has played all-out, fearless, damn-the-torpedoes hockey. I have no idea how he can sustain the beating he’s taking but so far-so good. Gallagher registered nine shots on goal in the game. A terrific touch pass led to a Byron breakaway in the first period. He won a battle behind the net and set up Byron for the goal that gave the Canadiens their 2-1 first period lead. Gallagher struggled during the regular season coming back from that broken wrist. That seems to be ancient history now.
Playing on the fourth line is not where you want to see Alex Galchenyuk. Claude Julien tried him at centre for a couple of shifts late in Game One. Recognizing that Galchenyuk was having a fairly good night he moved Galchenyuk to centre on the third line and moved the struggling Andrew Shaw to the wing for four shifts in the second period and then left him there through the third. We go game-by-game in the ebb and flow of the playoffs, but I think we can expect a line of Galchenyuk, Shaw and Lehkonen to start game three with Dwight King back down on the fourth line.
HELP WANTED –
Carey Price didn’t get much help on the three goals that were scored on him. A giveaway by Nathan Beaulieu led to the Michael Grabner breakaway goal. Beaulieu left his position to make a check near the blueline allowing Rick Nash to go in alone on the second one and Shea Weber went to the boards to make a check and couldn’t get back in time to handle Mats Zuccarello on the third one. Still a good night for Price, especially on a diving stop seconds before Radulov scored the overtime winner.
I suppose Andrei Markov has played better playoff games. I just can’t remember when. At the age of 35, he played a faultless game-high 33:41. I’ve always said on most nights he’s the smartest player on the ice. This was one of those nights. He was out there for both the game-tieing goal and the game winner.
DON’T MESS WITH SHEA –
Rangers forward J.T. Miller hadn’t read the scouting report on Shea Weber and decided to take a couple of runs at him early in the game. Most have learned not wake up the slumbering beast. Having taken enough, Weber pulled Miller out of a scrum deep in the Canadiens zone and beat him up, literally. To my recollection, Weber’s first fight as a member of the Canadiens.
The scene now shifts to Madison Square Garden for games Sunday and Tuesday. The Rangers had the best road record in the NHL this season, and they showed it in the first two games at the Bell Centre. Among the sixteen teams in this year’s playoffs, the Rangers also had the worst home record.
Although things can turn around in the playoffs, something to consider as the Canadiens try to restore home ice advantage in what is now a best-of-five series.