Had you told the New York Rangers they would split the first two games of their opening round playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens a week ago, they probably would’ve been pleased to hear such news.
But when reality struck, the fact remains that they were oh so close to returning to New York up 2-0 in the set.
Alexander Radulov tallied three points, the final of which was an overtime goal, and the Canadiens knotted up the series with the Rangers at a game apiece in the best-of-seven set.
Making matters all the more painful for the Rangers was the fact they fought from behind from separate deficits to take the lead in the final period. To start, they trailed 2-1 after the first period, a Michael Grabner breakaway goal, his second of the postseason, sandwiched by Montreal goals by Jeff Petry and Paul Byron.
The not-so-friendly feelings that dominated the teams’ first meeting reemerged in the second, with the squads combining for 24 penalty minutes in the middle frame. The biggest event came when Steve Ott slammed Mats Zuccarello hard into the boards, causing a melee behind the Montreal net. JT Miller and Shea Weber earned majors for fighting, though somehow the Ott-Zuccarello exchange ended with the Rangers on the penalty kill, one they were indeed able to escape unscathed.
In the chaos, the Rangers were able to tie the game with Rick Nash’s goal two seconds before the midway point, and later were able to take the lead with Zuccarello‘s deflection. Though Montreal put up great chances, Henrik Lundqvist was sharp for the second game in a row.
And if he and his defensive teammates were able to hang on for just 18 more seconds, the Rangers could’ve had the 2-0 lead.
Alas, it was not to be, as Tomas Plekanec deflected one in past Lundqvist for the score, sending Bell Centre into a frenzy as the game was tied in the final minute. The tying goal appeared to take the remaining heart and soul out of the Rangers. While they did get some great opportunities in the overtime period, a majority of the play was done in the Rangers end, setting up Radulov’s heroics. In the third and fourth periods, Montreal led in shots 31-17.
Though they’ve struggled at Madison Square Garden this season, the Rangers, for better or worse, now have home ice advantage in the series. They’ll face off for Game 3 on Easter Sunday night in Manhattan (7:00, MSG/NBCSN).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490