© The Associated Press
New York Rangers' Martin St. Louis celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final against the Montreal Canadiens Sunday in New York.
By Neil Davidson
THE CANADIAN PRESS
NEW YORK — Martin St. Louis scored at 6:02 of overtime to move the New York Rangers within one win of their first Stanley Cup final in 20 years with a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Montreal, with the Rangers looking to put the Canadiens to the sword for a third straight game at the Bell Centre.
The victory, which gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference final, marked the first time the home side had won in the series.
The win also came 20 years to the day that the Rangers defeated New Jersey 4-2 in Game 6 of the Eastern final. New York captain Mark Messier, who had guaranteed the win, scored a natural hat trick that night. The Rangers went on to beat Vancouver for the Cup.
Goalie Mike Richter and five other members of that championship team were in the stands Sunday.
Benoit Pouliot was penalized 30 seconds into OT for holding the stick but the Rangers killed it off. Henrik Lundqvist had to be sharp as the Habs threw pucks at the net.
But the Rangers steadied the ship and St. Louis, who had been buzzing all night, snapped home a shot from the faceoff circle that beat Dustin Tokarski.
Carl Hagelin and Derick Brassard also scored for the Rangers, both on breakaways generated by stretch passes.
Francis Bouillon and P.K. Subban — who played 30:35 in regulation time — scored for Montreal, which came from behind twice.
The Rangers outshot the Canadiens 26-24 in regulation. Montreal had a 5-3 edge in overtime.
Subban’s goal was Montreal’s only success in seven power plays in regulation. New York was 0-for-3 with the man-advantage but scored shorthanded through Hagelin.
After Subban tied it at 2-2 two minutes into the third, Montreal forward Alex Galchenyuk rang one off the goal post with a little over three minutes remaining. He thought he scored but play continued. Replays showed Lundqvist got his stick to the puck before it hit the crossbar and bounced down — in front of the goal-line.
With New York’s Derek Stepan recovering from a broken jaw suffered on a Brandon Prust hit in Game 3, Dominic Moore moved up to centre Rick Nash and Chris Kreider. Brassard returned from injury to centre Mats Zuccarello and Pouliot. J.T. Miller took the place of the suspended Dan Carcillo on the fourth line.
For Montreal, Michael Bournival stepped in for the suspended Prust on the fourth line and Bouillon replaced defenceman Nathan Beaulieu.
As in Game 3, Montreal found itself down 1-0 after a first period which could have been worse on the scoreboard.
The Habs found themselves killing a penalty before their first shot on net but wasted little time getting in Brassard’s grill in front of goal. Miller made his presence felt by hurling Mike Weaver into the goalpost, for which he was penalized.
Pouliot went to the box for a high stick and the Canadiens finally managed a shot on goal.
New York came into the game not having allowed a power-play goal in its last eight games (22 times shorthanded). And the penalty kill produced offence.
The short-handed Rangers went ahead 12 seconds into the Pouliot penalty thanks to a Brian Boyle stretch pass from the blue-line. The speedy Hagelin broke in alone, faked a shot and tucked a backhand through the legs of Tokarski at 7:18 for his sixth of the playoffs.
Montreal’s David Desharnais failed to corral a pass behind the New York goal and Ryan McDonagh poked the puck to Boyle to trigger the play.
It was the Rangers’ first short-handed goal in 70 playoff games, dating back to April 9, 2008.
The penalty count was three to one against the Rangers by the 10-minute mark, but the Canadiens power play was sputtering.
Montreal began to push back after the goal and Brian Gionta had a glorious chance 12 minutes in on a Lundqvist rebound at the doorstep but the puck bobbled and Lundqvist’s pad was there when the Montreal captain finally got control.
Rangers fourth-liner Derek Dorsett made his presence felt by stapling Weaver into the back boards on a puck chase. And St. Louis played puckhog on another Ranger shift, dipsy-doodling in the Montreal end.
The Canadiens outshot the Rangers 11-9 in the first 20 minutes. Subban, thanks to his time on the power-play unit, saw 12:14 minutes of action.
Tokarski was buried by a sliding Nash five minutes into the second period but survived the collision. That prompted the officials to warn both benches about not crashing the crease.
The New York-born Bouillon tied it up with a blistering shot from the top of a circle on a two-on-one with Desharnais after a nifty Rene Bourque pass between his legs. Lundqvist got a piece of it with his shoulder, but the puck still went in top corner glove side at 8:08.
With both teams playing four-a-side, Tokarski stopped a goal with his blocker as Brassard fired the puck from in front during a scramble.
At times, the game was like table hockey with both sides looking to open up the other with long passes. Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec, meanwhile, won no fans by feigning a stick to the face to sell a penalty.
Tokarski robbed St. Louis on a breakaway late in the period, catching the puck with his glove as if it was spring-loaded.
The Rangers went ahead with 56 seconds remaining in the second when Dan Girardi found Brassard with a superb stretch pass from deep in his own end. Brassard raced in and unloaded a slapshot from the slot to beat Tokarski.
Lundqvist picked up an assist, the first by a Rangers goalie in the playoffs since Mike Richter on May 11, 1997.
The shots were 20-16 in favour of New York after 40 minutes.
An early Montreal power play in the third — its sixth man-advantage — finally paid off when Subban hammered home a slapshot from the blue-line two minutes in.
It was Subban’s first point of the series — and first in six games — but also his fifth goal of the playoffs.
NOTES — Stepan missed a game for the first time in his four-year NHL career (294 regular-season and 54 playoff games) .. Celebs in the house included New York Knicks president Phil Jackson, ex-Rangers Rod Gilbert and Eddie Giacomin, ex-Giant Justin Tuck, Matt Harvey of the Mets, singer Harry Belafonte and actor Susan Lucci.