Martin St. Louis was not going to be denied this time.
The New York Rangers veteran was stopped twice from in close by the catching glove of underdog Montreal Canadiens goalie Dustin Tokarski in Game 3. But even though Tokarski was brilliant again in Game 4, St. Louis provided an overtime ending more to his liking for a 3-2 win on Sunday evening.
The Canadiens had taken over this Madison Square Garden party. They were the better bunch in the third period to tie the game and they had the Rangers back on their heels in the extra frame. Most of the key New York players were exhausted because they had to kill eight penalties.
But then Brad Richards and St. Louis went to work with a terrific shift six minutes into overtime. They were teammates a decade ago when they helped the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup championship. Now they have the Rangers within a victory of moving on to the 2013-14 Stanley Cup final.
In the action leading up to the game-winning goal, Richards cut off clearing attempts along the boards from Montreal centre David Desharnais and Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov to keep the puck in Montreal's end.
The puck found its way to Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin, who slid the puck to St. Louis off to the left of Tokarski in the same position St. Louis was in when he was foiled twice on Thursday.
This time, the veteran sniper exhibited tremendous patience. As the 24-year-old goalie went down, St. Louis fired the puck over the left shoulder of Tokarski with a precision shot off the crossbar and in.
All of a sudden St. Louis had his 10th career game-winning playoff goal, fourth in overtime (Calgary Flames fans may remember one of those OT winners in Game 6, 10 years ago in the final).
All of a sudden, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist had postseason victory No. 41 to tie Mike Richter for the all-time franchise lead. Richter just happens to be the Stanley Cup-winning goalie for the Rangers the last time they were in the final, two decades ago. Richter was in the building to watch the heroics from Lundqvist and St. Louis.
"It was a good play along the wall by Richie to keep the puck in and Hags was in good defensive position and good offensive position to slide the puck over to me," said St. Louis, who turns 39 next month. "I felt I had room and I just tried to trust what I saw. I've gone to that side quite a bit the last few games. He's made some good saves on me. But sometimes you have to keep trusting what you see. I was fortunate to get it by him."
Lundqvist, penalty killers bail out Blueshirts
The Rangers didn't make it easy on themselves. After two days of verbal jabs regarding truth about injuries and unwelcome New York assistant coaches attending a Canadiens' practice, the Rangers took too many undisciplined penalties in the opposition's end.
But the penalty killing unit and Lundqvist bailed out the Rangers. Sure Montreal's P.K. Subban finally ended an 0-for-14 drought in man-advantage situations when he scored to tie the game at 2-2 early in the third period.
But Subban was caught down low on a power play in the first period that allowed New York forward Brian Boyle to hit a breaking Hagelin for the game's opening goal.
Even though Subban scored his first point of the series, he did not enjoy a strong outing. He played a team-high 33 minutes and 16 seconds, including 12:51 on the power play.
"It's a big difference to be up 3-1 instead of going back to Montreal tied at 2-2," St. Louis said. "We were well aware of the opportunity we had in these two games at home here. We obviously were disappointed with the result last game. But we thought we played a good game. It was just hockey. Tonight we were on the good end and now we go to Montreal up 3-1."
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