Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers celebrates with teammates Brad Richards after scoring the game winning shot in overtime against Dustin Tokarski of the Montreal Canadiens to win Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won 3-2 to take a 3-1 series lead. (Al Bello / Getty Images)
New York — Martin St. Louis put New York within one win of the Stanley Cup finals, scoring 6:02 into overtime to give the Rangers a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday night.
A loose puck came to St. Louis, the Rangers’ inspirational postseason leader, alone in the right circle and he fired a snap shot over goalie Dustin Tokarski’s shoulder.
“I just got open,” said St. Louis, who has 39 career playoff goals. “I tried to trust my instincts. I hit some good shots, he made some good saves. I was fortunate this one got by him.”
The Rangers, who lead the series 3-1, were forced to overtime for the second straight game despite holding a pair of one-goal leads. New York lost Game 3 at home.
Carl Hagelin put the Rangers in front with a short-handed goal in the first period, and Derick Brassard made it 2-1 in the second. Hagelin also assisted on St. Louis’ goal.
Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves and earned his 41st postseason win, tying the franchise record of Mike Richter, who was in attendance.
St. Louis and Hagelin both have a team-high six playoff goals.
The Rangers are 6-1 since the unexpected death of St. Louis’ mother galvanized the team.
Francis Bouillon tied it for Montreal in the second, and fellow defenseman P.K. Subban made it 2-2 in the third with a power-play goal. David Desharnais assisted on both for Montreal. Tokarski stopped 26 shots for the Canadiens, who went 1 for 8 on the power play.
New York can advance to the finals with a win at Montreal in Game 5 on Tuesday night. The Rangers, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit against Pittsburgh in the second round, won the first two games of this series there.
Now they hope to end it quickly north of the border.
“We’ve got to close it,” St. Louis said
Though there were 13 minor penalties, there was no carry-over of the nastiness in Game 3 when a hit by Montreal’s Brandon Prust broke the jaw of New York forward Derek Stepan. Prust served the first game of a two-game suspension. Stepan sat out after having surgery.
The Rangers gave Montreal five power plays through the first two periods, and New York’s penalty-killers stood tall as they have for most of the playoffs. But the sixth Canadiens advantage produced the tying goal 2 minutes into the third when Subban scored his first goal of the series and first point in six games.
That broke the Rangers’ run of 27 straight killed penalties, dating to Game 2 of the second round. New York turned aside Montreal moments later when Brad Richards was off for tripping.
Montreal came at the Rangers in waves for the remainder of the third period and nearly grabbed the lead when Alex Galchenyuk, who scored the overtime winner in Game 3, struck the crossbar with 3:17 left in regulation.
Brassard, the focal point of some of the war of words between the two head coaches over the weekend, proved he has recovered from his Game 1 injury when he ripped a slap shot past Tokarski to restore the Rangers’ lead with 55.3 seconds left in the second.
Lundqvist stopped a puck behind the net and moved it up to Dan Girardi in the right circle. Girardi then sent a stretch pass nearly the length of the ice to Brassard, who grabbed the puck at the lower edge of the left circle, pulled his stick way back, held it loaded and then unleashed a drive that soared into the net for his fifth of the playoffs.
Brassard had missed most of the first three games of the series. Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said on Saturday he knew exactly what was ailing Brassard, comments that were perceived by the Rangers as a veiled threat.
The goal was a strong response by the Rangers, who lost their 1-0 lead at 8:08 of the second when Bouillon fired a shot in over Lundqvist’s left shoulder during a 2-on-1 break with Desharnais.
The Rangers put themselves into trouble by taking three straight offensive-zone penalties in the first period, but they were the ones who produced a goal during the power plays.
While Benoit Pouliot was serving the first few seconds of his high-sticking penalty against Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin, the Rangers gained control of the puck after a faceoff in their end. Brian Boyle was deep in the zone when he spotted Hagelin streaking up the middle of the ice.
Boyle hit him in stride with a pass just before the blue line, and Hagelin carried the puck in alone, shifted to his backhand in close, and slid the puck in at 7:18. New York’s first short-handed goal of this postseason came 12 seconds into Pouliot’s penalty.
Lundqvist was particularly sharp during the latter portion of Dominic Moore’s cross-checking penalty with under 9 minutes left in the period. The Canadiens mounted serious pressure and moved the puck all around the New York end, but Lundqvist kept them at bay.