There was no way the Montreal Canadiens were going to go down two games in this series without putting up a fight.
After being shut out in Game One, the Canadiens wanted to get on the scoreboard as quickly as possible. They wasted no time doing so, scoring on their first shot on net with Jeff Petry leaning into a wrist shot from inside the faceoff circle to beat Henrik Lundqvist for the first time this series.
As the Bell Centre buzzed, Paul Byron almost extended the lead to 2-0, getting sent on a breakaway, but on his backhand he wasn’t able to slide the puck through Lundqvist’s pads.
Just when it seemed as though the Canadiens were in control, Nathan Beaulieu misplayed the puck on the offensive blue line to Michael Grabner, who raced in alone to beat Carey Price on a breakaway and tie it 1-1 nine minutes after Jeff Petry had electrified the crowd to open the scoring.
It seemed really important that the Canadiens leave the first period with a lead. They kept coming at the Rangers in waves, and two minutes after surrendering the tying goal, Brendan Gallagher carried the puck across the opposition blue line, took a shot and followed his rebound behind the net before passing it to Paul Byron. Byron was alone in the slot to beat Lundqvist to put the Habs up 2-1 with just over four minutes left in the first period.
By the end of the first, the hit tally was 28-25 in favour of the Rangers, while shot attempts favoured the Canadiens 25-20.
The second period took off with the same intensity, with the hitting still constant, and the Canadiens forcing the offence while also only one mistake away from giving up the game-tying goal.
Despite a lot of roughing by the Rangers after the whistles from the start of the game, it was the Canadiens who were given the first penalty of the night after Alexander Radulov swiped at a Ranger skate with his stick as the ref tried to pull the two players apart.
The Canadiens killed the penalty, with some hard work from Shea Weber at the tail end of the disadvantage. A scrum at the end of the shift sent Weber along with Tomas Plekanec to the box, along with three Rangers players on the other side to give the Canadiens their first power play. The Habs didn’t convert, even though they were able to produce four shots on net on the man advantage.
The lack of powerplay finish would cost them, as moments later Rick Nash tied it as he took a long pass after a bad change by the Canadiens. He was able to speed into the zone and rip a shot top corner over Carey Price’s glove to tie it 2-2 with 10:02 remaining in the second period.
The Canadiens pressed on, and a drive to the net from Brendan Gallagher drew a penalty with 8:30 left in the second to give the Canadiens another power play, which they were once again unable to turn into a goal.
And again it would cost them, as with 5:13 left in the second Mats Zuccarello deflected a puck of his skate to deflect the puck past Price to put the Rangers up 3-2.
The Habs didn’t make life any easier, taking a penalty right after the next faceoff, with Jamie Benn sent off for tripping. Moments after killing the penalty, Alex Radulov was sent off for high-sticking in the defensive zone to give the Rangers a power play that would trail into the third period.
The Habs killed the penalty and were then given an early powerplay which again went nowhere. The Canadiens were desperately seeking a goal, having to push through a wall of five white sweaters in the neutral zone with limited room to accelerate.
Montreal made a big push with under five minutes left in the third that saw Alex Galchenyuk moved up to the first line between Max Pacioretty and Radulov for a shift that almost resulted in a goal. The shift created a huge burst of momentum and from then on the Canadiens were zeroed in on Lundqvist’s net looking for the game-tying goal.
And they would earn just that with 17.3 seconds left, coming off the stick of Tomas Plekanec. He deflected a pass from Alex Radulov over Lundqvist’s glove to make the Bell Centre explode and send the game to overtime.
The overtime didn’t move any slower than the periods that led up to it, with the Canadiens getting a chance to end it early on with a man advantage. The Habs hammered the Rangers from the get-go, throwing 24 shot attempts towards Henrik Lundqvist before Alex Radulov got the final one from the top of the crease, sending the crowd into a frenzy by getting his stick on a loose puck in front of the net and pounding it through Lundqvist’s pads to give the Canadiens the victory.
- Tomas Plekanec looks like he’s in a revival. What an effort all night from him and his line along with Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron who collectively averaged around 65 percent Corsi-for and tallied four points and two goals. It’s hard to predict whether Plekanec will be able to maintain this level of play, but there’s no reason to expect a confident and self-inspiring performance like the one he had last night to not be a step in that direction. I’m cheering for him to keep this up, that’s for sure.
- Alex Galchenyuk played 21:09 last night, with a huge boost in his minutes coming after the end of the first period when Claude Julien started promoting him through the lineup. Galchenyuk was instrumental in the comeback, sparking a huge burst of momentum that ultimately led to the tying goal a few shifts later. I don’t think he’ll be starting Game Three on the fourth line.
- The Canadiens hounded the Rangers in overtime. Their forecheck was something to behold, and kept the Rangers pressed in their zone time and time again. Overall, the Habs out-attempted the Rangers 102-69, controlling nearly 60 percent of the possession.
- The only downside for the Habs last night was their power play, which went 0/4 and is now 0/9 in the series. The Canadiens gave up goals twice last night after power plays. They will need to fix this if they don’t want to come from behind to win every game.
- But let’s not end on a down note. What a great game last night! Go Habs Go!