Maybe if goalie Henrik Lundqvist failed to bail out his New York Rangers teammates with such a masterful first period, Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien would be hailed for his decision to start Dustin Tokarski.
Instead, the Canadiens fighting spirit was extinguished after the opening 20 minutes because their young goalie couldn't make a timely save. The Habs buzzed for most of the period, but because of Lundqvist's 13 saves and a late goal from Rick Nash that Tokarski needed to stop, the Canadiens found themselves down a goal.
After 24 hours of secrecy regarding the status of Canadiens goalie Carey Price, Therrien revealed after his team's morning skate that Price was lost for the series due to his second-period collision with Rangers forward Chris Kreider in the series opener.
The nature of the injury was not discussed, but Price showed up for Game 2 with a brace on his right knee as he hobbled to join his teammates in the dressing room.
In the end, Therrien's gut feeling to start the 24-year-old Tokarski instead of his seasoned backup Peter Budaj has given the Habs faithful a sick feeling in their stomachs as the East final heads to Manhattan for the next two games.
Tokarski, of Humboldt, Sask. has big-game pedigree. He won a Canadian midget championship with the Prince Albert Mintos in 2006. Two years later, he led the Spokane Chiefs to the Memorial Cup, followed by a world junior title with Canada in 2009, and an AHL Calder Cup championship with the 2011-12 Norfolk Admirals.
But Tokarski had not seen any game action since the Hamilton Bulldogs AHL regular-season finale on April 19 and he had only 10 games of NHL experience.
Still, you could argue that even though the 31-year-old Budaj has been around, he has no wins in seven NHL playoff appearances with a dreadful .843 save percentage.
However, Budaj at least has seen some action, even though limited, in the last month.
"The No. 1 reason why we went with Tokarski is if you look at his background, his track record, he's a winner," Therrien said. "I thought he played well tonight.
"We did talk to Peter this morning and he acted as a pro. He's a good teammate and he understood our reasons why. It was tough. But it was a tough decision."
Therrien did not reveal who would start in Game 3 on Thursday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
Habs on the attack early
In front of Tokarski in Game 2, the Habs were on the attack early and often following another powerful rendition of the Canadian national anthem from Ginette Reno. The line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher was dominate and was rewarded with an early goal when Lundqvist attempted to poke a puck to safety, but it instead bounded off Pacioretty and behind the Rangers goalie.
The Rangers required only 17 seconds to tie the game with a tough luck goal for Tokarski because Ryan McDonagh's shot changed direction off of Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges.
The back breaker, and a goal Tokarski should have had, came late in the first period. McDonagh found Rick Nash wide on a cross-ice pass the young Montreal goalie did not anticipate.
The goal deflated the Habs. They couldn't get back on track in the second and then surrendered a power-play goal to Blueshirts forward Martin St. Louis on a questionable tripping call to Canadiens centre Alex Galchenyuk, who was making his first appearance since the regular season.
"Obviously, to win a hockey game, you need breaks, and you need calls," Therrien said. "Right now we don't have those breaks, and tonight we didn't have those calls at the right time. But I like our team effort. I thought our effort was great tonight."
It was the fifth win in a row for a Rangers team that has found its groove. The Blueshirts have outscored the opposition 20-6 during this run.
Lundqvist made 40 saves in total for his 40th career Stanley Cup playoff win.
"He was the difference," said McDonagh, the former Montreal draft pick who now has two goals and six points in this series.
"Injuries are part of the playoffs. You can rally off it sometimes and I think they did that at the beginning. They came after us."
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