The kid had to, at the very least, match the King if the Montreal Canadiens planned to make a series out the East final.
And 24-year-old Dustin Tokarski did just that. Down 2-0 in the series, the Canadiens goalie, who has been forced into action with the series-ending injury to Carey Price last weekend, made several wonderful saves to keep his club in the hunt for a 3-2 overtime win on Thursday.
He was as good as his New York Rangers counterpart, King Henrik Lundqvist.
Among Tokarski's 35 saves, he twice slid from right to left for massive stops on Rangers sniper Martin St. Louis, once in the second period and once late in regulation time. On both occasions he got his catching mitt up in time to foil St. Louis.
The Rangers were the dominant team early, but Tokarski kept his club in for the long haul.
"Dustin Tokarski was phenomenal," Montreal head coach Michel Therrien said. "He's a battler. Most important thing is he's a winner."
These were the traits that Charlie Hodge saw in Tokarski. Hodge was the Tampa Bay scout who urged the Lighting to draft Tokarski in the fifth round (122nd overall) in 2008.
The kid from Saskatchewan already had won the Canadian national midget championship with the 2005-06 Prince Albert Mintos and the Memorial Cup with the Spokane Chiefs two years later.
The next year he helped Canada win gold at the 2009 world junior, and then as a member of the Lightning AHL farm club in Norfolk he was spectacular in its march to the 2011-12 Calder Cup crown.
Famed Habs goaltenders
Now, he hopes to add his name to the long list of young goalies who have helped the famed Canadiens organization to playoff success. It's funny how things work out, that Tokarski plays for Montreal now. The Canadiens were the team Hodge, now 80, won six Stanley Cups in the 1950s and 1960s with Montreal.
He won two more as a scout with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s. He shared Vezina Trophies in 1963-64 and 1965-66 with his Canadiens teammate Gump Worsley.
This was a strange game. Referees Marc Joannette and Kevin Pollock missed a blatant early game late hit from Montreal fourth-liner Brandon Prust on Rangers centre Derek Stepan. Then in an act of retribution on Prust, New York tough guy Dan Carcillo jostled with linesman Scott Driscoll. It was clear that Carcillo bonked the official in the chin.
Both Carcillo and Prust could be suspended for their actions.
Prust's hit sent Stepan to the dressing room, but he would return in the first period and helped set up Chris Kreider's fluky game-tying goal with 29 seconds remaining in the third period.
Kreider was awarded credit for the goal that sent the game into overtime because his tip of a pass from teammate Dan Girardi wound up bounding in off the right skate of Montreal defenceman Alexei Emelin.
Tokarski didn't have a chance on that one or when the Rangers scored the game's first goal. After a P.K. Subban whiffed on a shot attempt in the other end, his defence partner Josh Gorges covered up for Subban by making a glove save. But Gorges backed into Tokarski on the play, leaving the Montreal goalie defenceless as New York's Carl Hagelin batted in rebound.
Weird goals continue
The weird goals continued for Montreal's Danny Briere when he banked a shot off the right shin of Rangers blue-liner Ryan McDonagh.
After Kreider's game-tying goal, Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk scored the game winner by crashing the net. Lundqvist kicked out a rebound right into the chest of Galchenyuk, who was playing in only his second game back after a knee injury that kept him out six weeks.
But it was Tokarski's clutch play that put his team in a position to win.
"I definitely felt more calm and relaxed and got the jitters out," Tokarski said of his second Stanley Cup playoff start.
It's a little too early to include his name in all of those young standout goalies in the Canadiens past. But who knows, with a few more wins, move over Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden and Steve Penney and Patrick Roy for a new kid in town.
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