MONTREAL – The Rangers came to the Bell Centre expecting a coronation. They got something else entirely.
After scoring eight goals in the first four games of the series, the Canadiens went on a rampage in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers. With their backs to the wall, the Habs came out shooting, scoring early and often to send the series back to Manhattan with a 7-4 victory.
Only 22 seconds into the first period, Chris Kreider was whistled for tripping P.K. Subban in the neutral zone. The Canadiens powerplay, which had struggled for form recently, quickly got organized in the Rangers’ end. Some quick puck movement allowed Andrei Markov to slide a pass over to an unmarked Subban. The blueliner’s one-timer from the left point was redirected by Alex Galchenyuk at the top of the crease and trickled through Henrik Lundqvist at 1:48. Ten minutes later, Derek Stepan, back in action after undergoing surgery for a broken jaw, tied the game. The Ranger centerman streaked into the Habs zone and snuck a quick wrister through a maze of sticks and past Dustin Tokarski. Not to be outdone, Tomas Plekanec scored on an almost identical shot two minutes later to restore the Canadiens lead going into the first intermission.
Thing got really interesting in the second period, one which played out in three acts. Act One featured a dominating performance from the home team, which pinned the Rangers in its own zone from the 21st to the 30th minute of the matchup. In that span, the Habs built up a 6-0 lead in shots on net. At 3:44, Brendan Gallagher fed Max Pacioretty in the slot for the sniper’s fifth of the playoffs. Three minutes later and with a Ranger fresh out of the penalty box, a resurgent Rene Bourque cashed in from the side of the net after cycling the puck with linemates Thomas Vanek and Lars Eller.
“We did a good job moving the puck down low on the powerplay and got pucks to net. Then we got rewarded,” noted Bourque, whose best work had yet to come.
In Act Two, the home fans’ world was temporarily flipped upside-down. At 9:48, Rick Nash scored on the Rangers’ first shot in the period. Within five minutes, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider had tied the game four-four, to the consternation of most present at the Bell Centre on the night.
“These are the games which make us get grey hairs. But we were well prepared for the game tonight, and we played that way,” offered coach Michel Therrien, who was generally unaffected by the turn of events. “I didn’t feel the need to ask for a time out. The attitude on the bench was good and I felt that we were doing okay.”
Fortunately for Therrien and his team, Act Three was about to begin. Rene Bourque struck again just 58 seconds after Kreider knotted the game. Taking a feed from Dale Weise, the former 27-goal man streaked into the New York zone with a full head of steam and went bar-down on Cam Talbot, who took over in net for Lundqvist after Montreal’s fourth goal.
“Bourque’s goal gave us a lot of confidence,” acknowledged Therrien. “He was a force out there. He was strong on the forecheck and went to the net. At the intermission, I told our players that we tied the second period, so we just needed to keep playing our game.”
“Bourque is a big reason why we got the momentum back,” praised Max Pacioretty. “It’s obviously tough to give up a couple goals once you have a 4-1 lead. No timeout, the guys on the bench we had to look in the mirror and do it ourselves. And Bourque stepped up. You have to give him all the credit in the world for turning the momentum around. Bourque is an unbelievable player with world-class speed and shot and it showed.”
Just to show it wasn’t luck, the Albertan completed his hat trick on another partial breakaway early in the third. To the relief of all, the Habs would hold onto the lead for good this time.
“It was nice to bounce back. We were pretty relaxed despite the circumstances. We knew what we had to do. Dale Weise made two great passes to me on my second and third goal, just like Lars Eller made a great pass on my first goal. I was able to use my speed to get open for a shot,” added Bourque, who is now tied for second league-wide in playoff goal-scoring with Jeff Carter and Jonathan Toews.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
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