Not only did the Montreal Canadiens get stomped 7-2 in Game 1 against the New York Rangers, they also lost their gold medal-winning goalie Carey Price in the process. After losing Game 2 as well, Montreal fans had plenty of reason for concern. Their hopes of advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals were pinned on a goaltender with just 10 games of NHL experience.
Last night might have helped ease those fears a bit.
Dustin Tokarski, in his second ever postseason appearance, stood on his head in Game 3. The Rangers pelted him with 37 shots, only two of which went past the young netminder. In the end, Tokarski’s performance helped keep the Canadiens alive during a night in which a loss would’ve been a near-fatal blow to their Cup dreams. Thanks to him, as well as Alex Galchenyuk‘s goal one minute into overtime, Montreal now has life in a series they were looking more than out of just a few days ago.
It was going to be almost impossible to replace what Price gave the Canadiens during this postseason. Despite a shaky performance in Game 1, he had been playing very well in net, and his injury left many to believe Montreal was dead in the water. Ask any Habs fan how confident they felt knowing Tokarski was the guy they had to pin their hopes to, and I doubt they would’ve been too confident.
Ask them now, and they might have a change of heart. It’s just one win, but an impressive one at that. Barely anyone knew his name before Game 2, and by choosing him over journeyman Peter Budaj, the Canadiens essentially were telling young Tokarski that they felt he gave the team their best shot at getting to the finals. How’s that for a reality check?
And yet, there he was, standing strong in hostile territory and giving Montreal an incredibly much-needed victory. Tokarski is in the middle of a trial-by-fire situation, and for one night at least, he came out on top.
He can take the next couple days to celebrate his first ever postseason victory, but come Sunday, it’s time to show he’s more than a one-hit wonder. Last night was a big step in the right direction for Tokarski, but his test is far from over. New York still leads the series 2-1, so Montreal is hardly out of the woods.
At the same time, the Canadiens needed to be assured they made the right call in trusting Tokarski, and Game 3 went a long way towards doing just that.