Home ice hasn’t been a friend to the Rangers for much of this season but they finally used it to full advantage in the 2-1 win over the Canadiens Tuesday night. And now the Eastern Quarterfinal series is tied at two.
Still, but for a ten minute stretch in the second period when the Canadiens let things get away from them, this was an evenly played game. That ten minute stretch was the difference. With the pressure on Max Pacioretty’s fly-by check at the Canadiens line allowed Ryan McDonagh to set up Rick Nash for what turned out to be the winning goal at 4:58 of the second period.
Yet, thanks as usual to Carey Price, it was still a one-goal game late in the third period and the Canadiens came within a post of sendinit into overtime with 1:18 remaining and Price on the bench for the sixth attacker.
The Canadiens defense had been very good for most of the last two games. They did not have a great night in this one. The defense failed to box the Rangers out of the critical areas in front of Carey Price, especially in the opening ten minutes of that second period. It proved to be the game’s difference. After Pacioretty failed to complete the check at the blueline on the winning goal, Jordie Benn didn’t contain Nash in the corner all of which led to the winning goal. Tough break on the first goal when the puck kicked off Markov’s skate and Carey Price was caught unprepared for Jesper Fest shot.
It’s hard to find fault with the way Alexander Radulov has played in this series, but there are times when I think he plays with too much enthusiasm and his game gets away from him. This seemed to be one of those games. Still, too-many-men=on-the-ice or not, his hard check at the line and the pass to Shea Weber was as good as it gets and led to Mitchell tying the game. Six points in three games for Radulov. No complaints on that.
After watching the Stepan/Nash/Vesey line dominate the Danault line in the early stages of the second period, Claude Julien sprung Alexander Radulov free and put him on a line with Galchenyuk and Lehkonen. It didn’t change things much. Radulov finished the game without a shot on goal. Lehkonen’s three shots came prior to the switch. I don’t expect the revision to carry over into Game Five.
THE BEST OF HABS
It happens in games like this where the fourth line turns out to be the best. Steve Ott, Dwight King and Torrey Mitchell had a very good night. Torrey Mitchell scored the Canadiens only goal. It seemed that the only sustained offensive pressure came when they were on the ice. Unfortunately, nobody looks for them to carry the offensive load.
….It should be noted that Julien switched things on his first and third lines but again left the Plekanec line intact. For good reason, they are producing at both ends of the ice and have been since the start of the series. Offensively Brendan Gallagher again spent the night in Henrik Lundqvist’s face and led the Canadiens with three shots. The line led the Canadiens with five shots on goal.
….After a season that can be described as ‘mixed’, Jeff Petry has had a terrific playoff especially in the area of moving the puck . He was the Canadiens best defenseman which is saying something on a team that includes Shea Weber and Andrei Markov. Along with two shots on goal, he also blocked four shots.
….Canadiens penalty killing again was again outstanding. The Rangers are 0-for-12 on the power play and including the final twenty-four games of the regular season opponents are 2-for-39 which is a 94.8% success rate.
I don’t know how important it is in the current NHL but the Canadiens have re-taken home ice advantage as the series shifts back to Montreal for game five on Thursday. It’s now best-of-three and outside of having home ice for two of the three remaining games, there is no choosing a favourite.