Coming off a dominant performance in Game Three, the Montreal Canadiens headed back to Madison Square Garden to get one win closer to the second round. But a poor showing will send both team back to the Bell Centre, turning this first-round matchup into a best-of-three series.
The New York Rangers came into the first period with an urgency that had been missing all series long. New York took advantage of Montreal’s slow start to pepper Carey Price with shots, but the Canadiens weathered the early storm.
Montreal got its first real scoring opportunity in the period, when Alex Galchenyuk sprung Andrew Shaw on a breakaway that was denied by Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers responded almost immediately, when Jesper Fast took advantage of Andrei Markov’s unlucky bounce to put the home team on the board first.
Just under two minutes later, the Canadiens found themselves down a man when Shaw was caught tripping Dan Girardi. The Rangers tried to take advantage of the penalty when Rick Nash found the back of the net as he crashed into Price in the process. The referees quickly called the goal back, as Nash was assessed a goaltender interference penalty on the play. Neither team managed to score a goal on the ensuing 4-on-4.
The following Montreal power play was short lived, as Alex Radulov was sent off for high-sticking Marc Staal. Despite being down a man, Jordie Benn found himself on a short-handed breakaway that once again could not beat Lundqvist. The Canadiens penalty killers continued to remain perfect, escaping another penalty unscathed.
Radulov quickly got redemption, setting up a Torrey Mitchell and Shea Weber 2-on-1, as he got out of the penalty box. That play saw Mitchell finally get one past Lundqvist, to knot the game at one a piece.
Having not yet tired from exchanging penalties throughout the period, the Rangers would put the Canadiens back on the power play when Ryan McDonagh was given two minutes for slashing Brendan Gallagher with 4.2 seconds left on the clock. Montreal headed back to the locker room with a near two-minute power play to look forward to at the start of the next period.
Much like the first, the Canadiens struggled to find their legs in the second frame and squandered the man advantage. Unlike the previous period however, Montreal didn’t rebound from its sluggish start until the final minutes.
The Rangers pressured the Canadiens early and often, finally breaking through Montreal’s defence under five minutes in. McDonagh found Nash who potted his own rebound past Price — this time not recalled — to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Montreal would get scoring opportunities of their own following the goal, but the momentum was short-lived. New York regained control of the puck and at one point in the period were outchancing the Canadiens 11-1. The Rangers took advantage of the passivity of the Canadiens defence to pepper Price with shots. But the All-Star netminder had little trouble turning away all but one of those attempts.
Price’s efforts to keep it a one-goal game invigorated his team as the period wore down. With less than five minutes left in the frame, Coach Julien swapped Shaw and Radulov to spark Montreal’s offence, and new lines nearly connected.
The Canadiens upped the pressure in the Rangers’ end, forcing Derek Stepan to take a tripping penalty. Though Montreal would remain on the man advantage until the end of the second, they were unable to get another puck past Lundqvist.
Having had enough of playing short-handed, neither team spent any time in the sin bin in the last period. Looking for the equalizer, the Canadiens began the third on a relatively better note.
Radulov found Galchenyuk in front of the Rangers’ net but the centreman’s shot harmlessly trickled through Lundqvist past the side of the net. The Rangers received a scoring opportunity of their own as the period wore on, but Price was able to make a brilliant save on New York’s 2-on-1 attempt to keep it a one-goal game.
Unlike the first two periods, the final frame saw both teams struggle with icings and transitioning the puck out of their respective zones. Montreal and New York exchanged few chances through the third, and neither squad had any dangerous opportunities at even-strength.
The Canadiens pulled Price with under two minutes left in the frame to ice an extra attacker. The move nearly paid off as Shea Weber’s slapshot beat Lundqvist, but couldn’t beat the goalpost. That was the closest Montreal would get to tying the game, as they dropped Game Four to New York by a score of 2-1.
- Why is Dwight King still in the lineup? Between being passive with the puck, squandering scoring chances created by his linemates and not being particularly defensively aware, King looks out of place every time he sets foot on the ice. In fact, throughout the game, it seemed that for every shift King spent on the ice, a Rangers’ transition into the Canadiens’ zone was almost inevitable. Acting as a detriment to Montreal’s offence while creating more work for Carey Price should be enough incentive for Julien to replace him with another forward.
- The trio of Lehkonen-Galchenyuk-Shaw saw their ice time reduced. Shaw was the least-used forward on the team, having only 10:30 of ice time at even-strength. Meanwhile, Lehkonen and Galchenyuk saw just over 13 and 15 minutes of ice time, respectively. Despite the limited time, this line was not on the ice for any of the Rangers’ goals and saw linemates switched around throughout the game, with Shaw ending up on the first line, while Radulov took his place on Galchenyuk’s wing.
- This loss is not on Carey Price. Price made 30 saves and posted a .938 save percentage, and now boasts a 1.65 goals-against average and .942 save percentage through the first four games of this post-season. He also shook off a Rick Nash collision and remained in net to keep it a close game.