After tying the series with a big overtime win at home, the Montreal Canadiens will be heading to New York to take on the Rangers at MSG for game 3 of the 1st round.
With less than a minute left in game 2, things were looking bad for Montreal. Down 3-2 with the time running out, many thought they would be heading to New York down 2-0 in the series. Luckily for the Habs, Tomas Plekanec came up clutch. Plekanec won an intense net front battle with Nick Holden, gaining position to deflect a great pass from Alexander Radulov past Henrik Lundqvist with only 17 seconds left. In overtime, Montreal made full use of their momentum and took control of the game. After several good chances by the Habs, Radulov was able to jam the puck past Lundqvist, securing the win for Montreal. Despite having the worst regular season of his career, Plekanec may have saved Montreal’s season with his late game-tying goal. If the Habs had gone down 2-0 in the series, it would have been very difficult to come back and win it.
Although tonight’s game won’t be as important as game 2, it is still a very important one, as is every game of the playoffs. In addition to potentially taking their first lead of the series, the Habs will be looking to regain home ice advantage after dropping one game at home. If they are able to take a lead in the series and regain home ice advantage, things will be looking good for the Habs.
If Montreal plays like they did in game 2, they should be able to secure another win. The Habs outshot the Rangers by a whopping 20 shots, putting 58 on goal compared to New York’s 38. If the Habs offense continues to produce at this rate, the Rangers will need to put several goals past Carey Price in order to win. With Price as good as he is, I cannot see this happening in many games, and the Habs should be in great shape to take the series.
Especially once Alex Galchenyuk was promoted to the 3rd line, the Habs 4th line was dreadful in game 2. Consisting of Dwight King, Steve Ott, and Andreas Martinsen, the fourth line got absolutely eaten up by the Rangers offense and were constantly hemmed in their own zone giving up chance after chance. Every single Montreal Canadien finished game 2 with a positive Corsi rating, apart from the three members of this line. King was even, Ott was a -5, and Martinsen was the worst of the bunch with a -8. Every time they were on the ice, the 4th line was a liability, and the Habs were lucky that they were not too hurt by this. If Montreal hopes to win this series and go far in the playoffs, they are going to need every line to be at their best. In order for this to happen, the play of their 4th line will have to improve drastically.
While one line was brutal, the Habs also had a line that was absolutely dominant. Their 2nd line of Paul Byron, Tomas Plekanec, and Brendan Gallagher had their best night of the year, bringing it to the Rangers shift after shift. With many fans calling for offense after game 1, this line answered the call. The 2nd line was fully responsible for Montreal’s 2nd goal and had several other high danger chances that could have resulted in other goals. Also, although the line was not together, Tomas Plekanec got the game-tying goal, adding to his already solid performance. If this line continues their strong play and causes more havoc in the Rangers end, it will give the Habs 3 solid lines that can put the puck in the net and will ensure that they get the offense they need to win this series.
Although the offense was cooking, the Habs struggled with their defensive play throughout this game. On the first goal, Nikita Nesterov was unable to cover for a falling Nathan Beaulieu at the o-zone blueline. As a result, Michael Grabner was able to breakaway and put one past Carey Price. On the 2nd goal, Beaulieu played the 2-1 poorly and allowed Jimmy Vesey to slide a pass over to Rick Nash who put it home on the breakaway. Although the line change could have been to blame, the Habs still could have been able to prevent the goal if they were better defensively. On the final goal, Mats Zuccarello was left wide open in front, and was able to deflect the puck into the empty net off of a point shot by Brendan Smith. In addition to the goals, the Habs also gave up other breakaways and high danger scoring chances that easily could have resulted in more goals. Montreal’s defensive play is usually what wins them games. If they don’t get the offense that they got in game 2, the Habs could be in big trouble if this poor defensive play continues.
If case for some odd reason any Habs fan still hasn’t grown on Alexander Radulov, there is no reason to not love the guy after his performance in game 2. Radulov earned the 1st star of the night, as he put up 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists), including the game-winning goal in overtime. Radulov was one of Montreal’s best players this season, and his strong play will be a key factor in how well the Habs do down the stretch.
Habs Lineup Notes
-Alex Galchenyuk will be playing on the 3rd line as a center, slotting in between Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Shaw.
-Torrey Mitchell has replaced Andreas Martinsen on the 4th line.
-Brandon Davidson will be replacing Nikita Nesterov on the 3rd D-pairing and will be playing alongside Nathan Beaulieu.
-Alexei Emelin will be held out of the lineup once again, as he has not traveled with the team to New York. With the Habs playing poor defensively in game 2, a healthy Emelin could be huge for Montreal.
The Rangers had the worst home record out of any playoff team during this year’s regular season, going 21-16-4 at the Madison Square Garden.
Puck drop is at 7:00 EST. Go Habs Go!