Martin St. Louis put the Montreal Canadiens on life support after he put a shot to the short side over the glove of Dustin Tokarski. The New York Rangers are now one game away from reaching the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1994. New York played a great game from a structure standpoint, their breakouts were always in control and they never panicked with the puck in their own end.
The Rangers made sure that the Canadiens had no business winning this game. A key indicator of how well they played structurally is that they were on the penalty kill eight times in this game and they only allowed one goal. When the Rangers weren’t killing penalties, they were able to control the puck in the offensive zone and put the Canadiens on their heels.
Even with the eight power plays, the shots were equal at 29 apiece and that shows when facing adversity, this team can play calmly. Credit goes to head coach Alain Vigneault for putting his players in the best position to succeed, something other coaches may struggle with. Vigneault knew there was blood in the water and made sure that his team kept putting the pressure on the Canadiens. Dumb penalties in the offensive zone prevented the Rangers from doing that over 60 minutes, but they showed they were the better team tonight at even strength.
A smart play by Derick Brassard to come off the bench near the offensive blue line and an even better pass by Dan Girardi gave the Rangers the lead in the second period, but a slap shot from the point by P.K. Subban showed how much fight the Canadiens had in them.
The Canadiens have every excuse in the world to give in to the Rangers. After a long gruelling series to the Boston Bruins, their best player Carey Price was lost in Game 1. Heck, even in Game 4 they only had one shot in the second period before Francis Bouillon tied the game up at one. However, the Canadiens just keep fighting and, that’s what you expect teams to do at this point in the NHL playoffs.
This series says 3-1 Rangers, but the games are much closer than that. The Canadiens almost split the series in New York and pushed them to overtime in Game 4. The Rangers know full well that a team can comeback from a 3-1 series deficit and with how close they played this series, a couple of bounces here and there, and the Canadiens could be the ones ahead.
The Canadiens’ season might be on life support, but this series appears to be far from over.