The New York Rangers withstood early pressure from the Montreal Canadiens and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was on top of his game as the New York Rangers took Game Two with a 3-1 win.
Before the game started, the Canadiens had announced that G Carey Price would be out for the series, with a knee injury suffered in a collision with Rangers LW Chris Kreider, and head coach Michel Therrien made the decision to go with Dustin Tokarski in Price's place.
Tokarski, 24, has posted a .921 save percentage in 56 games with Hamilton of the AHL since he was acquired from Tampa Bay last year, and stopped 88 of 93 shots (.946 SV%) in three games with the Canadiens this year, but Tokarski has also started 10 NHL games in his career, so the decision came with a certain amount of risk.
Montreal opened the game asserting territorial control, with 24 of the first 34 unblocked shot attempts in the game. Habs LW Max Pacioretty got the Canadiens on the board first, 6:14 into the game, with his third goal in the past four games. At that point, the Canadiens were looking good.
Only 17 seconds later, Rangers D Ryan McDonagh scored on a shot that deflected off D Josh Gorges and past Tokarski. McDonagh added an assist later, giving him six points in the first two games of the series.
As the first period neared a close, the Rangers looked like they might be able to escape with a tie score despite getting the wrong end of the puck possession game, but then circumstances got even better for the Blueshirts. A quick-break three-on-two, following a defensive zone face-off, resulted in a goal for Rick Nash, the second straight game in which he has scored. Tokarski could have come across the crease quicker, perhaps but, even so, Nash's one-time snap shot was stoppable. It was the kind of goal for which Tokarski shouldn't really be blamed -- he didn't give up the three-on-two break -- but, especially in the playoffs, it was the kind of goal that comes under more scrutiny.
So the Canadiens, who might have been somewhat frustrated to end the first frame tied despite dominating play, weren't even tied, they were down by a goal.
Then, 8:03 into the second period, Rangers RW Martin St. Louis scored a power goal, with a rocket shot inside the post, and the Canadiens' climb got much steeper.
Montreal was stifled for much of the rest of the game, with a few surges, particularly on a power play, with Tokarski pulled, in the last four minutes, but Lundqvist was there to turn back any Habs attempts. In his last five games, Lundqvist has stopped 162 of 168 shpts (.964 SV%) and, over the past three seasons, has a .933 save percentage in the playoffs. Not exactly an easy head-to-head matchup for Tokarski to win.
The Canadiens got LW Alex Galchenyuk back in the lineup -- his first game since suffering a knee injury April 9 against Chicago -- and the line of Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty was on for more than 86% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts when they were on the ice. D P.K. Subban had 18 shot attempts (nine on net, six blocked, three missed the net) and Gallagher had 13 attempts.
More problematic for the Canadiens is that Thomas Vanek didn't register a shot on goal. In the past seven games, Vanek has registered either one or zero shots in six of them.
It's not as if the Canadiens have altogether no hope, but it's not an easy task to come back from a two-games-to-none series deficit, and doing so with questions in goal makes that scenario all the less likely. They will need a dramatically different performance in New York if they are going to reverse the path which is currently leading them to the offseason in short order.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.