If the late Johnny Carson was still alive and took in Game 5 between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers at the Bell Centre on Tuesday evening, you could be sure he would have said, "That is some weird, wild stuff."
Eleven goals. A Rene Bourque hat trick. A blown 4-1 lead by Montreal. Henrik Lundqvist was pulled. Another dumb, late headshot from Rangers defenceman John Moore on Montreal's Dale Weise that will likely see Moore hit with a suspension.
Yes, this was a weird, wild affair.
When all the hats were cleared off the ice and the Canadiens faithful were sent dancing toward nearby Ste-Catharine Street, Montreal had a 7-4 victory to force Game 6 back at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET).
The Habs now are 3-0 in elimination games this spring.
With all these goals, it was like 1986 all over again, back when there were some crazy offensive games in the NHL, even in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But even in 1986, the last time the Rangers and Canadiens met this late in a post-season, there were only 24 goals scored in the Habs' five-game series win over the Blueshirts in the Prince of Wales Conference final.
The Rangers and Canadiens already have combined for 34 goals in this series.
The offensive outburst was a welcome one for the home side. They desperately needed to give Dustin Tokarski, the 24-year-old goalie who has filled in admirably for an injured Carey Price, some goal support.
But whether Tokarski of Watson, Sask., can duplicate then-rookie Patrick Roy's heroics in 1986 and get the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup final remains to be seen.
Right now, the Habs faithful will settle for 2010, the last time Montreal overcame a 3-1 series deficit to beat Alex Ovechkin in the first round of the playoffs.
There still are plenty of Canadiens left from that team in Brian Gionta, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban. Price was the backup goalie. Max Pacioretty and Travis Moen were around as extras.
So many of this group knows what it takes to come back when you're down and out and if they need more recent inspiration, all they have to do is remember what their opponents accomplished in the previous round. The Rangers won three in a row to upset Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in a seventh-and-deciding game.
Even the Canadiens find themselves in a similar situation: going on the road down 3-2, just like they were in the second round against the Boston Bruins.
'They're wearing down'
Beating Lundqvist, however, three games in a row will be an arduous task. Up until Tuesday night, when he was pulled after giving up four goals on 19 shots, King Henrik had been on a roll. He had reeled off six wins in seven starts with a standout .950 save percentage.
"We played two games in New York," Gionta said. "We almost came away with two wins there.
"We have to continue to play the way we did tonight. Stay all over them.
"I think they're wearing down. We have to keep on them."
Gionta remarked that he likes the poise Tokarski has exhibited.
"It's not easy in this city," Gionta said. "But he's handled himself so professionally."
'More desperation in their game'
Tokarski outplayed Lundqvist in Game 5. But those who follow Lundqvist know he has an ability to bounce back from bad outings.
The Rangers bounced back in this game after they found themselves trailing 4-1 early in the second period and with backup Cam Talbot in goal.
The move to pull Lundqvist temporarily gave the Rangers a lift. Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, who returned after missing one game with a surgically repaired jaw, and Chris Kreider scored four minutes and 24 seconds apart to tie the game. But then, New York relaxed, Bourque scored on the shift following the game-tying goal from Kreider and the Canadiens never looked back.
"The bottom line is all of us have to be better, certainly me," Lundqvist said. "I thought they had more desperation in their game."
Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC
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