If it were physically possible for a noise level to cause the collapse of a sporting venue, the Bell Centre in Montreal would most likely be a pile of dust tonight, and no one within the city limits would be too terribly upset about it.
After a brutal battle between the home Montreal Canadiens and the visiting New York Rangers, the dust settled in a 7-4 final decision in favor of the home team — the underdogs have now earned a Game 6 in the Eastern Conference Finals. And while the cheers for those seven Montreal tallies caused enough racket for the game announcers to quit trying to talk over the celebrations, the cheers were loudest for the one who passed tonight’s test with flying colors: Montreal’s back-up to the backup goalie Dustin Tokarski.
Tokarski’s story hasn’t been the first of a third-in-line goalie taking over in dire moments, but going into Tuesday night’s elimination game for Montreal, many wondered if Tokarski’s playoff stint would suffer an unhappy ending; not from a lack of talent nor timing, but rather a lack of experience in general.
Tokarski, however, put those worries to rest.
While the score on the board at the end showed a game Montreal clearly took control of, the actual facets of what happened between the first puck drop and last sound of the horn were nothing short of three 20-minute periods of breathless hockey. When the Rangers scored three goals in less than four minutes to tie the score at four in the second period, the life in the Bell Centre could have been swept out with a broom. This was Tokarski’s cue to crumble. Who would blame the kid anyway? It’s not his fault, and only experience could teach him to know better.
Yet Tokarski didn’t miss a beat, trusting his team would come up as the difference-maker if he compartmentalized the past and pushed for a win. The team did their part, scoring three more to finalize the deal, and the youngster in net didn’t let another piece of black rubber past him all night.
So here marches on the mighty hockey team from Montreal, the only group left in the playoffs that hails from the home of hockey itself; a team that not only has a city behind them, but perhaps an entire nation ready for them to prove whose game this really is.