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Canadiens vs. Rangers - Game Four: Preview, Start Time, How to Watch, Tale of the Tape

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As the Habs round into dominant form, can the Rangers find an answer before it’s too late?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight in Manhattan, the Montreal Canadiens will play the most important game of their nascent playoff run.

The Habs have looked more and more convincing as the series has progressed. They followed a dominant first period with an underwhelming final forty in Game One, but wouldn’t let a slow second period undermine them again in Game Two. Their dominant third period and overtime in that game evened the series and set the table for Game Three, in which the Canadiens flat out mauled their opponents.

Searching for a critical third victory, the Habs will look to continue on their upward trajectory in Game Four.

How to Watch

Puck drop: 7:00 pm EDT/4:00 pm PDT
In Canada: CBC (English), TVAS (French
In the United States: NBCSN, MSG
Elsewhere: NHL.tv, NHL Gamecenter

Tale of the Tape

CANADIENS STATISTIC (5 vs5) RANGERS
CANADIENS STATISTIC (5 vs5) RANGERS
2-1 Record 1-2
35.76 Avg. Shot distance 37.72
53.9 Score Adjusted Corsi 46.1
59.78 xGF% 40.22
60 SCF% 40
94.12 SV% 95.60
69 HDSC% 31
4.40 SH% 5.8
20 PP% 0
100 PK% 80

Heading into Game Three, the Canadiens had a couple of adjustments to make. First, they finally did away with their wretched fourth line, killing two birds with one stone by swapping in Torrey Mitchell for Andreas Martinsen and moving Alex Galchenyuk onto a line with Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen. With many of the Rangers’ forwards struggling to find their footing, Montreal should have a major advantage in they can creating scoring chances across all four lines again tonight.

Second, they swapped Nikita Nesterov out of the lineup on the premise that Brandon Davidson might offer the steady play that Nesterov was not. For one game, at least, that solution appears to have worked.

The success of those two tweaks gives the Habs the luxury of continuing to roll with what looks like a winning formula. If the Canadiens’ penalty kill can continue to keep the Rangers from gaining any traction, or if the powerplay can show the type of efficiency it displayed when Lehkonen drew first blood on Sunday, it’ll be even tougher to find cracks in Montreal’s game.

That’s exactly the problem faced by Alain Vigneault entering tonight’s game, and after his couple of tweaks for Game Three were less successful than those Julien implemented, the pressure is mounting.

Vigneault shuffled his defence corps before Sunday’s game, removing Nick Holden from his pairing with Marc Staal, promoting Brendan Smith to Holden’s spot, and slotting Kevin Klein in on the third pairing with Brady Skjei. Unfortunately for the former Montreal bench boss, those changes did little to slow down the Canadiens and may even have sabotaged the Blueshirts by breaking up what had been a very successful Skjei-Smith pairing through the first two games. Now, Vigneault will have to decide between the status quo, going back to Holden, or perhaps considering an option like Adam Clendening.

Up front, Vigneault has yet to deploy his talented rookie Pavel Buchnevich, who represents one possible path in the quest to light a spark under the New York forward group. Until he can resolve problems like the continued absence of 49-point regular season scorer Kevin Hayes, however, changing the fourth line may amount to shuffling deck chairs.

By running with the the same lineup and game plan that won them Game Three, the Habs are betting that Vigneault won’t find answers quickly enough. Tonight, with the series likely in the balance, that theory will be put to the test.