MONTREAL – There’s one important thing that P.K. Subban wants you to know: We’re still in this.
The big story before puck drop was the identity of the Canadiens’ starting netminder. With Carey Price out for the series with a lower-body injury, rookie Dustin Tokarski was called upon to make his first career NHL playoff start. While short in experience in the League’s springtime dance, the Humboldt, Saskatchewan native is a proven playoff performer, having gone all the way at the Memorial Cup, the World Junior Championships and the AHL’s Calder Cup.
“Of course I was nervous. It’s tough not to be nervous when you’re playing in this rink. But it was a good stress, the kind that gets you ready to play,” offered Tokarski, who made 27 saves on 30 shots faced. “I only found out that I was getting the start this morning, so there was not too much time to get worked up about playing. When you’re young, you always dream about playing in the playoffs. I was happy to get the chance, but obviously disappointed in the outcome. We’ll get them next time.”
“Tokarski gave us a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask for. He did a great job tonight. I’ve played with him at the World Juniors, and he’s a great goalie,” said P.K. Subban, who had his first taste of international glory in 2009 while playing in front of Tokarski on Team Canada’s gold medal-winning entry.
Once the starting lineups announced and the anthems sung, the Canadiens came out of the gates in the best possible way, crushing the New York Rangers in puck possession in the early going. By the time Max Pacioretty made it one-nothing for the locals, the Habs had directed twelve pucks in the direction of Henrik Lundqvist’s net, versus only two shot attempts for the visitors. Just seventeen seconds later, however, a bad bounce off a shin pad tied the game, setting the stage for a frustrating night at the office for the Canadiens’ players.
“A goalie like Lundqvist forces you to go for the perfect shot, but that’s not how you want to play. You want to put pucks on net to give yourself a change to get a deflection or a rebound,” added Brendan Gallagher, whose line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty dominated their New York counterparts to the tune of 23 shot attempts for and only three attempts against during Game 2. Simply put, when the dynamic trio was on the ice, the Ranger’s forwards simply never had the puck on their sticks. Despite teaming up to create the first goal of the game, overall the line was unlucky not to have lit the lamp more often for the team’s 21 273 screaming fans.
Outshot 41-30 overall, the New York Rangers nevertheless came out with a 3-1 victory at the Bell Centre on Monday night to lead the series 2-0 going back to New York City. Still, P.K. Subban stood up for his teammates’ effort level at the conclusion of Game 2.
“How many times have we hit the net and had a chance to score? Lots of times. We’re not doing anything wrong offensively. We are getting pucks on net and getting bodies in front. We just have to bury our chances. I shot a couple of pucks which got tipped, and it hit Lundqvist’s shoulder and he didn’t even see it. You need a little bounce here and there and it’ll come,” insisted the reigning Norris Trophy winner, who led all players with nine shots on goal in a game-high 29:40 played. Late in the game, Michel Therrien pulled out all the stops in order to close the gap on the scoreboard, double-shifting Subban with dynamic rookie Nathan Beaulieu in an effort to spark the team.
In the post-game interview, P.K. was unequivocal. He wants his fans to know that it gets better.
“As far as we’re concerned, we’re only going to improve. I still don’t think we’ve played our best hockey game,” the defenseman mused. “Since the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen this team been down more than two games, and still come back to win the series. There’s no pressure on us heading to New York, but there’s going to be a lot of pressure on them. We’re optimistic about our opportunities and we’ll be ready to play.”
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
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