Rangers shoot for Cup Finals berth in Game 5 at Montreal
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers will try to punch a ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years when they visit the Montreal Canadiens for Tuesday's Game 5 at the Bell Centre.
The Rangers grabbed a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals thanks to Sunday's 3-2 overtime victory against the visiting Canadiens. Martin St. Louis scored at 6:02 of the extra session to help New York take a commanding lead in the best-of-seven set and the Blueshirts hope to close out the series with another win in Montreal.
A victory tonight would put the Rangers in the Cup Finals for the first time since 1994 when the franchise beat Vancouver for its most recent championship.
New York is 6-3 as the road team in this postseason and won Games 1 and 2 of this series at the Bell Centre. The Rangers have won four straight road games and haven't lost away from home since dropping Game 2 of the second round in Pittsburgh on May 4.
Sunday's contest marked the first time the home team won in this series, but Montreal will be eliminated if it can't make it two in a row on Tuesday. The Habs are 4-3 at the Bell Centre in this postseason.
"We've got to take things one period at a time," said Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec. "The last step for the Rangers is the toughest one to make. We're going to make it hard on them, and we're going to use our crowd playing at home. We've got to take advantage of it."
Montreal hopes to stay alive Tuesday and mount a comeback in this series. The Canadiens, who last made it to the Cup Finals when they won it all in 1993, have rallied from 3-1 deficits twice over the last decade, with the most recent comeback coming against Washington in the opening round of the 2010 playoffs.
"By no means are we counting ourselves out," said Habs captain Brian Gionta. "It's a tough loss, it's a bitter loss, but at the end of the day we're still in this series."
If the Canadiens can stave off elimination Tuesday the clubs will reconvene Thursday in New York City for Game 6.
Montreal won a 3-2 overtime decision in Game 3 at New York, but the Rangers were the one's celebrating at the end of Sunday's OT battle. The Habs tried to clear the puck out of the zone at the left point with several bodies fighting there, but Carl Hagelin was able to keep it in and fed the puck over to the right circle.
St. Louis took the pass in the clear and picked his spot, firing a high shot over Dustin Tokarski for the win and a 3-1 lead in the series.
"I was tired at the time and I was just hoping he'd end the game," said Hagelin. "He did, it was a great shot by him. He didn't have much to shoot at, but he found the spot over the glove."
It was the fourth playoff overtime winner of St. Louis' career, tying him for the lead among active players with Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Kane and Patrick Marleau.
Hagelin posted a goal and an assist, while Derick Brassard, who had missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury, returned to play and added a goal for the Rangers, who saw Henrik Lundqvist make 27 saves in the win.
Francis Bouillon and P.K. Subban scored for the Canadiens, while Tokarski stopped 26 shots in the loss.
The Rangers, and St. Louis in particular, were having a frustrating time trying to get the puck past Tokarski, who has been spectacular, while starting Games 2, 3 and 4 in place of injured No. 1 Carey Price. St. Louis had five shots on the young netminder without a goal in Game 3 and he scored the winning goal Sunday on his fifth shot of the night.
Late in the second period of Game 4, Tokarski snapped his glove hand to rob St. Louis on a breakaway, but in the extra session the Habs goalie wasn't quick enough to deny the veteran winger.
"It was a good hockey game and it's just unfortunate that we were on the losing end," said Tokarski. "He had a little time with the puck and picked a corner, I just couldn't get it. The only thing I'm going to think about now is coming back on Tuesday and winning that game."
Montreal, meanwhile, hopes to help out its goalie by being more opportunistic on offense. The Canadiens scored on just one of eight power-play opportunities in Game 4 and are just 1-for-17 with the man advantage in this series.
"We had the opportunity on the power play and we didn't take advantage of it tonight," said Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien.
The Rangers hope to have Derek Stepan back in the lineup Tuesday after he sat out Game 4 with a broken jaw suffered on a hit from Montreal's Brandon Prust in Game 3. Stepan made the trip to Montreal and is questionable for tonight's game. Fellow Rangers forward J.T. Miller, who suffered an upper-body injury in the second period on Sunday and did not return, did not travel with the team for Game 5.
Prust is serving the second part of a two-game suspension tonight for his hit on Stepan.
New York can split the all-time tie in playoff meetings against the Habs with a victory tonight. These clubs have split 14 postseason encounters, with the Rangers winning the last matchup in the opening round of the 1996 playoffs.
05/27 09:37:32 ET