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Habs Look To Level Series

The Eastern Conference finals have turned from a heated battle into a full blown war between the Rangers and Habs.

The Eastern Conference finals have turned from a heated battle into a full blown war.

It took overtime but the Montreal Canadiens finally beat the New York Rangers on Thursday. They’ll look to do the same as the two sides meet in Manhattan on Sunday for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Opening faceoff at Madison Square Garden is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.

After being pummeled 7-2 in Game 1 of the series and learning star goaltender would miss the rest of the Eastern Conference finals with a leg injury, things looked pretty glum for Montreal heading into Game 2. They looked even glummer afterwards.

New York took the second game 3-1 behind a 40-save effort from goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Making his postseason debut, Dustin Tokarski allowed three goals on 30 shots for the Habs, who left the friendly confines of Bell Centre trailing 0-2 and looking dead in the water.

The Canadiens weren’t quite ready to give up yet though.

With the series switching to New York City on Thursday, the Canadiens came out fighting, taking two early leads before being forced into overtime. Alex Galchenyuk’s goal 1:12 into overtime ultimately gave the Habs the victory, while Tokarski stopped 35 of 37 shots.

In what has already been an impressive and enjoyable postseason, the series is now poised nicely going forward.

The big news heading into Game 4 surrounded suspensions.

On Friday, the league office announced that Rangers winger Dan Carcillo had been suspended for 10 games for an altercation with a linesman during Game 3 at the Garden. That effectively rules him out for the rest of the postseason (he could play Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals were it to go that far).

Meanwhile, Habs winger Brandon Prust was suspended two games for a hit that broke Derek Stepan’s jaw.

The suspensions and the rough play ensure that the rest of this series – be it two games or four – will be a true battle between teams that don’t like each other. It’s also a battle between teams that are desperate to win.

Both the Canadiens and Rangers are looking to end prolonged championship droughts. Winners of 24 Stanley Cups, Montreal last lifted the giant cup in 1993, defeating the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 in the series. The Rangers, winners of four Stanley cups, went on to lift the trophy the following season, winning in seven games against the Vancouver Canucks. Neither side has appeared in the finals since.

The Rangers and Canadiens have a long history when it comes to playoff hockey. The two sides first met in 1930 and have subsequently played 14 series since, the most recent coming in 1996. In terms of playoff series wins, the Rangers lead the Canadiens 9-5 all-time, and have won five of the last six series during a stretch that dates back to 1969. It’s safe to say the Habs would love to end the Rangers’ extended run of dominance.

Interestingly, no series between the two sides has ever gone the distance, and 10 of 12 eligible series (in 1933 and 1935 the series were decided on goals) have finished in five games or less. History suggests this current series may not have long to play out.

Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers odds for 05/25/2014

Playing at home, New York (-170) opened as the favorite over Montreal (+154) on the moneyline.

The Canadiens represent a sleeper bet though. The Habs are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games with the Rangers and have won their last three games at Madison Square Garden, a stretch that dates back to February 2013.

The total sits at 5.

Montreal (6-3-2) has favored the over this postseason while New York has favored the under. So far this series, one game finished with the total going over, one with the total going under, and the third saw a push. The under may be the smarter bet on Sunday though.

The over has paid out just once in the last 10 head-to-head matchups between the teams, Game 1’s 7-2 onslaught by the Rangers. That doesn’t make for tempting reading from this vantage point.

After Sunday’s game, the series will return to Montreal for Game 5 on Tuesday (8:00 p.m. ET).

For a full list of the latest NHL playoff odds, click here.

When available, updated NHL futures odds can be found here.

For a selection of NHL team prop bets, click here.

For a selection of NHL player prop bets, click here.

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