Habs Hanging Tough But For How Long?
The Montreal Canadiens avoided playoff elimination once. Can they do it a second time?
Trailing 3-2 in the series, the club travels to Manhattan on Thursday night to face the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
Opening face-off at Madison Square Garden is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.
In what has been one of the most competitive tournaments in any major professional sport in recent years, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody that Montreal, with its back up against the wall, forced a Game 6 this past Tuesday. After all, only two series out of a possible 12 this postseason have finished before Game 6.
The way the Habs forced an extra game was surprising though.
The side, which has struggled on the offensive end for much of the series, found the goal seven times in Tuesday’s Game 5, beating the combination of Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot on 6-of-27 shots.
The Habs jumped out to a 4-1 lead early in the second period but soon found themselves pegged back by a resilient Rangers side, which scored three goals in a 4:24 period midway through the second. Michel Therrien’s side could have dropped its chin, but instead it fought on.
Rene Borque scored his second goal of the game less than a minute after the Rangers’ goal-scoring spree, before completing a hat trick in the third to give the Habs a 6-4 lead. David Desharnais’ empty net goal on a Rangers’ power play with less than five minutes left in the game completed the 7-4 victory for the Canadiens.
The Canadiens will now hope some of the momentum that came with Tuesday’s win at Bell Centre travels with the side to Broadway and then back to Montreal on Saturday.
The Rangers meanwhile will be desperate to close out the series and move on to a first Stanley Cup appearance since 1994.
Alain Vigneault’s side will look to shrug off any thoughts of its own success in comeback victories, having trailed 3-1 – as the Habs did in this series – to the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier in the playoffs. They’ll simply look to close the series out and become the first team to have played in two seven-game series to start the postseason to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
New York will be without defenseman John Moore on Thursday. Moore was slapped with a two-game ban following an “illegal check to the head” of Dale Weise in Tuesday’s game.
Meanwhile, ESPNNewYork.com is reporting that Daniel Carcillo is scheduled to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday. The Rangers forward was handed a 10-game ban after making contact with a linesman earlier in the series. Carcillo, and the Rangers, will be hoping for a reduced sentence.
The Canadiens have won three of their last four trips to Madison Square Garden, the one loss coming on Sunday in Game 4 of this series, a game that went to overtime. But can they record a win when it’s needed most?
The over/under continues to sit at 5.
Tuesday’s 11-goal thriller saw the total go over for just the second time this series. The Rangers (7-7-5) have now split the over/under evenly this post season. The Canadiens (8-4-4) continue to favor the over.
If the Canadiens pick up the win on Thursday, the two sides will return to Montreal for a decisive Game 7 on Saturday (8:00 p.m. ET).
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