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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, May 29th (All times Eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (2-3) at New York Rangers (3-2), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Canadiens will attempt to stave off elimination for a second time when they visit the New York Rangers on Thursday for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Canadiens entered Tuesday's Game 5 on home ice down 3-1 in this best-of- seven series, but came through with a 7-4 triumph to stay alive. Rene Bourque sparked the victory with his first postseason hat trick as the Habs kept their season going by winning a sloppy yet entertaining contest at the Bell Centre.
If Montreal is able to pick up a road win on Thursday, the Canadiens and Rangers would meet Saturday at the Bell Centre for a Game 7 clash with a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals on the line. Both teams are attempting to get back to the Cup Finals for the first time since the 1990s. Montreal was the last team based in Canada to win it all in 1993, but has yet to return to the Cup Finals, and the Rangers are aiming to get back to the final stage for the first time since winning their last championship in 1994.
The Rangers are 5-4 as the home team in the 2014 playoffs, while Montreal is 5-3 as the guest. Both meetings at Madison Square Garden in this series went to overtime, with the Habs taking a 3-2 decision in last Thursday's Game 3 meeting and New York winning by the same score on Sunday.
Montreal has lived to fight another day thanks in large part to Bourque's offensive explosion on Tuesday. Bourque scored twice in the second period and once more in the third. His second tally restored Montreal's lead to 5-4 after the club blew a 4-1 advantage and Bourque completed the hat trick to make it 6-4 at 6:33 of the third.
"It was a happy moment, especially when this team was facing elimination," Bourque said. "Everyone was ready for this game in a tense situation. After they tied it, we had to settle down. We had to make it work again to bounce back. We've been here before; we have to relax and get back to the basics instead of running around."
Bourque was the first member of the Habs to record a home playoff hat trick since Eric Desjardins on June 3, 1993 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals in a 3-2 overtime win against Los Angeles. Andrei Kostitsyn was the last Habs player to score three times in a postseason tilt, in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on April 17, 2010 in Game 2 of the Eastern quarterfinals.
Bourque has eight goals this postseason, tying him for second in the league behind Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik, who has scored 11 times. Bourque only had nine goals in 63 games during the 2013-14 regular season.
Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk added a goal and assist each for the Canadiens, who received additional tallies from Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais.
Andrei Markov added three helpers, Lars Eller and Dale Weise assisted on a pair of scores apiece, while Dustin Tokarski stopped 23 shots in the victory.
The Canadiens 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.
Derek Stepan returned from a broken jaw to net a pair of goals for the Rangers, who battled back from down three goals to tie the game in the second period but couldn't close the series.
Chris Kreider contributed a goal and three assists and Rick Nash also tallied. Cam Talbot surrendered two goals on eight shots in relief of Henrik Lundqvist, who exited after yielding four goals on 19 chances.
This is the 14th all-time playoff series between these teams and Tuesday's contest matched the highest single-game goal total for a playoff matchup between the clubs, after the Canadiens posted an 8-3 win over the Rangers in Game 3 of the semifinals on March 30, 1957
"It was a roller coaster. The guys kept on fighting, battled the whole way. When it was a tie game, we're at home and the crowd's behind us, we stayed focused and it worked out," Tokarski admitted.
While Tokarski hopes to pick up another win on Thursday, Lundqvist will try to bounce back for New York in Game 6. Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault believes his goaltender is going to be back in usual form tonight.
"Henrik doesn't need to hear anything from me," Vigneault said on Wednesday's off day. "He's a veteran player. One of the best in his area, and I'm sure he's going to be focused and ready for the next game."
One player who should be ready to hear the boos from the New York crowd on Thursday is Canadiens forward Brandon Prust, who is eligible to return from a two-game suspension tonight. The former Ranger was banned for delivering a high, late hit against Stepan in Game 3, resulting in a broken jaw for his friend and former teammate.
The Rangers will be without defenseman John Moore for the rest of the series after he was dealt a two-game suspension for his hit on Montreal's Dale Weise in Game 5. Raphael Diaz, who began the season with the Canadiens before being dealt to Vancouver and then the Rangers, is expected to take Moore's place in the lineup.
New York can break 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.
05/29 10:48:17 ET