The New York Rangers stormed out to an early 2-0 series lead against the Canadiens, taking both games in Montreal. However, home ice held little advantage, as New York not just the game at home, but two key players as well. With the series set to go back to Montreal on Tuesday, the Rangers will be looking to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the series with a victory on Sunday night and get one step closer to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Prior to the series, many pundits were predicting an epic goaltending duel between Habs goalie Carey Price and his counterpart Henrik Lundqvist. Most believed that the better goaltender in the series would be the key to victory, while others were concerned that Lundqvist’s horrible record at the Bell Centre in Montreal might be the difference. Both of those predictions seem to have fallen by the wayside now. The Rangers stormed to an unexpected 2-0 lead in the series, winning both games in Montreal. Lundqvist stole the victory from a Canadiens team that had more shots and more chances but just could not solve the Swedish goalie.
The Canadiens biggest loss was the loss of Olympic Gold-medal winner Carey Price after he collided with Rangers forward Chris Kreider in the first game of the series. The bold move by coach Therrien to replace Price with rookie Dustin Tokarski seemed to be welcomed by most fans. Despite a solid game, though, he was unable to help reverse the Habs fortunes in Game Two.
Perhaps that little experience was all he needed, or perhaps getting away from the pressure cooker that is the Montreal hockey media was the key. Either way, Tokarski made some stellar saves in Madison Square Garden as he stole the third game away from a Rangers team that looked likely to take three in a row. With the series at 2-1, New York will be looking to take a stranglehold on the series tonight, and to do so, they will have to get under Tokarski’s nerves. Unfortunately for the Rangers, however, they will be missing the services of two key players.
Early in the last game, Canadien forward Brandon Prust hit Derek Stepan well after the puck had left Stephan’s stick. Stepan stayed down on the ice for a while, and, despite returning for a shift, was forced to undergo surgery for a broken jaw. For his part, Prust was later suspended two games for the hit. Later that period, Carcillo was given a game misconduct and later assessed a 10-game suspension, after he elbowed the linesman who was trying to prevent Carcillo from intervening in a fight between Prust and Ranger Derek Dorsett.
The Rangers will be buoyed but the potential return of Derick Brassard. Coach Alain Vigneault has said Brassard will be a game-time decision but strongly hinted that he should be back in the line-up, which would be a welcome development for a team that has just lost two forwards. With the renewed confidence of a resilient Canadiens team, New York will not want to give the Habs any hope. As such, the Rangers will be looking to take a stranglehold on the series, and if they can not, Montreal is just the sort of team to punish them for it.
Commentary by Bryan A. Jones