New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens – MON wins 7-4, NYR leads series 3-2
There was a major lineup note for the Rangers as Derek Stepan, just days after jaw surgery from a suspension-worthy hit by Brandon Prust, would return to the lineup for the Rangers. How healthy he is would be another question but would be a big boost to New York, providing more depth to the excellent forward group they have already. The ability of the Rangers to effectively shut down the top forwards from Montreal, particularly Max Pacioretty, was due to their ability to match any of their four lines as they wanted. Stepan would help bring that balance back to the lineup. That lineup move also allowed Dominic Moore to return to the fourth line. That line had been effective often this series against the third and fourth lines from Montreal and J.T. Miller just didn’t have the same effect that Moore can have as a member of that fourth forward unit.
In a lesser but notable move, Nathan Beaulieu would replace Alexei Emelin on the Montreal blue line. Emelin has looked overwhelmed at several points in these playoffs and the speed of some of the Rangers forwards was burning him at times. The mobility that Beaulieu would bring to the blue line would help Montreal sustain offensive pressure and keep the puck out of their own zone. He also led the Canadiens in puck possession in his last game this series, something that his team desperately lacked at times through the first four games. With veterans like Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, Thomas Vanek, and Max Pacioretty not contributing much offensively, the younger guys like Beaulieu, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, and Lars Eller would have to carry the offensive burden for this team. The Habs would need their veterans to come through eventually, but Montreal’s youth would have to score the goals for now.
It didn’t take long for the Habs youth and Derek Stepan to make their respective marks on this game. Glachenyuk deflected a P.K. Subban point shot on the power play less than two minutes in to the game to give his team an early 1-0 lead. Stepan would reply with a snap shot off the rush from the middle of the ice nine minutes later to tie the game. Oddly enough, it was Plekanec who gave the Habs a 2-1 lead in the first.
A wild second period led to six goals between the two teams and the Canadiens blowing a 4-1 lead before adding a late one to regain the lead at 5-4. There were two goals from Rene Bourque and one from Pacioretty for Montreal. For the Rangers, Stepan added his second goal of the night, Chris Kreider had a tap-in on the power play and Rick Nash scored his third of the series. It was a period punctuated by a lot of sloppy defending from both teams but notably the Habs. Montreal was scrambling on a couple of Rangers goals and a shot that Josh Gorges waved his stick at and deflected past his own goalie.
Bourque scored the insurance goal to help Montreal get to Game 6. As can be inferred from the score, it was a sloppy defensive game from both sides. The Canadiens were able to capitalize on a few more opportunities and that was the difference.
Plekanec led non-fourth liners from Montreal with a 60 percent CorsiFor, making it a bit easier to swallow his embellishment penalty. Stepan had an excellent return game and didn’t seem to show any ill effects from his injury. There were a couple potentially suspension-worthy plays, just adding to the mess that was Game 5. Both teams will want to improve their defensive effort for Game 6 in order to give their goalies a chance.
*as always, thanks to Extra Skater and ShiftChart