Despite putting up a great effort in game two, Montreal found themselves in a 0-2 series deficit heading to New York. Last night was a complete gong show from the Habs point of view, but they had one ace up their sleeve.
A new hope
When the news broke that Michel Therrien would be trusting Dustin Tokarski over Peter Budaj in Game 2, several eyebrows were raised. Despite his pedigree, Tokarski's NHL experience is very limited to say the least. Would the young netminder be able to steal a game if need be? Well, they needed it, and he delivered.
Tokarski faced 37 Rangers shots, and endless pressure by the New York squad. The only pucks to beat Tokarski involved some defensive lapses by his defenders.
The tying goal towards the end of the third period is not on Tokarski either, as Alexei Emelin was sitting in the crease defending no one, and deflected it behind his own goaltender.
Emelin was awful for the majority of the game, and although Michel Therrien has been excellent so far in the playoffs compared to the regular season, he has to accept that Emelin cannot play properly on the right side. He needs to play on the left side, or Montreal has to find someone that can play on the right.
The series took an aggressive turn in Game 3, the catalyst being Brandon Prust's dirty hit on Derek Stepan.
The hit went unnoticed by the referees, which of course meant that Derek Dorsett had to avenge Stepan by getting his face punched by Prust several times. While this happened, Carcillo lost his mind and entered a physical battle with the linesman. Unfortunately for the Habs, this will likely lead to a suspension. If they truly wanted to punish the Rangers they would force the team to play Carcillo on the first line.
Speaking of dumb plays, isn't this a little too Sean Avery for anyone else? Smarten up Kreider.
Pacioretty on a mission
Pacioretty wanted to win as much as Matt Cooke wants to end careers.
He was a dominant force among a relatively anemic offense, and although he didn't score, he did set up Markov's goal in the first.
A game of turnovers
This gif sums up the majority of the game for the Habs.
The order went: turnover, shot against, turnover, shot against, turnover, turnover, score on your own net, turnover, turnover, shot against, turnover, turnover. Rinse and repeat.
Essentially the Rangers dominated Montreal all night, yet with a little luck and a great performance by Tokarski, Montreal managed to cut the series lead in half.
A defensive connundrum
The Rangers were entering Montreal's defensive zone at will. Since the Habs defenders are deathly afraid of the Rangers forwards and their speed, they conceded the blueline ad nauseam, and allowed the Rags to set up shop as often as they liked. The only solution I can see to this issue would be a better effort from the Canadiens' back checking forwards, meaning the defenders would be allowed a little more leniency when dealing with the Rangers entering the zone.
If they hope to push this series to at least six games, Montreal will have to put forth a better effort going forward. Relying on Dustin Tokarski makes for a great story, but a terrible game plan.
Don't forget that Game 4 will be aired on Sunday evening, because who wants Saturday night hockey in the playoffs anyhow? Certainly not Habs fans.