After a last minute comeback against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, Montreal entered MSG hoping to get another valuable two points versus another opponent who is above them in the standings. Right from the get go Scott Gomez, Max Pacioretty and Brian Gionta exercised a strong fore-check in the Rangers zone. NY responded back the other way when Artem Anisimov tipped a Marian Gaborik shot wide. After a Rangers turnover Benoit Pouliot and Mathieu Darche both received in close chances on Henrik Lundqvist but were unable to get the puck by him. Heading back into the Habs zone Gaborik found the Rangers newest player Wojtek Wolski open and ready for a one timer. Wolski nailed the shot but Alex Auld was there to make his first good save of the game.
At 4:15, Brandon Dubinsky scored his 17th goal of the season when he hit the Habs zone with speed and beat Auld with his shot while cutting to the middle. With his team now up 1 to 0 Dubinsky looked to double the lead when he missed a redirect while standing all alone in front of Auld. On the next shift Dale Weise took a shot on Auld creating a rebound, this gave Brandon Prust the opportunity to take a couple of whacks at it but Auld was ready on both occasions. After being hemmed in for an extended period the Habs finally exited the zone and returned to the attack. On the coming rush Lars Eller made a nifty pass to Tomas Plekanec who then cut to the middle took his shot. Lundqvist made the save and gave up a short rebound but no Habs players were able to pounce on it. The Rangers returned on the attack when both Gaborik and Anisimov created multiple chances for themselves but failed to beat Auld.
After weathering the storm, James Wisniewski blasted a point shot that Lundqvist stopped with his mask. Montreal continued their good work when Pouliot found Darche with his pass forcing another save. Hal Gil then took a rare point shot with traffic in front that Lundqvist stopped as well. With the Habs continuing to apply pressure Eller got called for a holding penalty while being too aggressive in his puck pursuit. Montreal continued their good work on the PK and did not allow one shot from the Rangers power play. After the kill and a couple of inoffensive shots, the Habs handed over another power play to Rangers when P.K. Subban got caught retaliating and received a roughing penalty for his efforts. This Rangers power play would only last eight seconds due to Marc Staal, when he interfered with Jeff Halpern who was heading on a breakaway. Auld then made back to back saves on Matt Gilroy followed by a save on Ruslan Fedotenko. Near the very end of the period Pouliot found Halpern in the slot where the latter tipped it wide to keep the Habs down by one after one.
The second began with New York applying pressure in the Habs zone leading to Auld having to make a save on a point shot from Dan Girardi. Pacioretty riffled a shot of his own at the other end, creating a nice rebound for Gomez who was unable to hit the net with his shot. Auld continued to frustrate the Rangers at the other end when he made back to back saves on Mats Zuccarello. After seeing his goaltender make the saves in his zone, Pacioretty crashed the net coming down the middle forcing Lundqvist to make a save as well. Although he did not beat Lundqvist with his effort, Pacioretty did manage to draw a holding penalty giving his team a power play. Montreal did not score with the man advantage with Wisniewski receiving the best chance from the point. Halpern then made a nice play when he banked a hard pass off of the boards while in the neutral zone. The puck made its way to Pouliot who shot the puck from an off angle allowing Lundqvist to make an easy save. Sean Avery tried to get his team back on track when he tried to beat Auld with back to back wrap around attempts on either side. Auld did a good job of tracking the play and stopped Avery on both occasions.
At 11:09, John Tortorella called a timeout as he needed to give his players a rest after icing the puck while being gassed. Off the ensuing face-off Darche missed a golden opportunity to tie the game when he failed to get good wood on a one timer that would have beaten Lundqvist. The Rangers then missed two opportunities of their own, when Jaroslav Spacek blocked a quality shot from Gaborik and Dubinsky fanned on a rolling puck while in the slot. Gomez then snuck into the Rangers zone skating down the middle where once again Lundqvist made the save. The tight checking continued when NY received a 2 on 1 opportunity with Brian Boyle carrying the puck. Boyle attempted to make a play but Wisniewski’s quick stick ensured that the puck was cleared out of danger.
New York came close again when Chris Drury nailed the post with a shot from the face-off. Halpern forced a rebound at the other end prompting Lundqvist to make a save on a shot from Roman Hamrlik. We then saw some great work form Jacques Martin’s newest line of Plekanec , Pouliot and Darche. With all three players cycling the puck, Spacek took a shot that deflected into the back of the net while Pouliot was shoved into Lundqvist. After a brief review the referees determined that it was a good goal to tie the game. The goal was awarded to Spacek even though you could clearly see that the puck hit the back of Darche’s skate which caused the redirect. Montreal continued to press after the goal when Gionta made a quick pass to Pacioretty in the slot forcing another save. With less than a minute to go in the period Staal and Subban got called for roughing to create some 4 on 4 hockey. In the dying seconds, Plekanec and Pouliot charged in on a 2 on 1 only to have Lundqvist make the save on Pouliot’s backhand attempt while cutting in front.
Gomez went straight for the Rangers zone in the third and produced some good board work in the process. This led to Gil taking another good shot on Lundqvist, who met him with an even better blocker save. Pouliot and Darche also continued to attack when they kept poking towards a loose puck in the crease. Lundqvist finally settled the puck down to cover it and got the whistle. After Auld made an easy save on Avery, Pacioretty managed to find Gionta all alone in front of Lundqvist. Gionta made the move and took a good shot only to have Lundqvist rob him of a goal. Plekanec and Darche kept things going for the Habs as they continued to cycle in the Rangers zone. After making a multitude of quality saves Lundqvist let in a softy that Pouliot was more than happy to take. Pouliot skating in along the boards took a harmless looking shot from a bad angle. The puck somehow managed to squeeze in the top corner to give the Habs the go ahead goal.
After the goal Spacek continued his strong night as he made another good block in his zone. New York then seemed to be determined to get the tying goal but the Habs continued to play a strong defensive game, giving them very little ice to work with. This was followed by Lundqvist making more saves on both Gill and Plekanec. Auld then had to be sharp as the Rangers received more opportunities to tie it up. After stopping Zuccarello twice in a row, Auld had to make another good save on Prust that came from a defensive turnover. The tight checking continued and then New York received their best opportunity to get the tying goal when Wolski hit the post with his shot. Full marks have to go to Auld on the play however as on the replay you could actually see the puck hit his blocker before it hit the post. This was definitely a game saver as the puck could have easily have gone in if not for the change of direction. With 1:25 left to the period NY decided to pull their goalie for the extra man. Dubinsky had the best chance at the very end of the period but Auld made sure that this game would not go into overtime.
HiD Three Stars
- Benoit Pouliot
- Jaroslav Spacek
- Brandon Dubinsky
HiD Turning Point
Pouliot's winning goal that came from a bad angle