MONTREAL — Rene Bourque scored three goals as the Montreal Canadiens chased goalie Henrik Lundqvist and defeated the New York Rangers 7-4 on Tuesday to stave off elimination in the NHL Eastern Conference final.
The Rangers, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, will have another chance to book a trip to the Stanley Cup final in Game 6 on Thursday night in New York.
“Rene Bourque played a great game. He was a force out there, you know?” said Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien. “On the forecheck, he took the man. He was moving his feet. He was going hard to the net. He’s a very good scorer, so definitely that was a great performance by him.”
Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty also scored for Montreal, which outshot the Rangers 28-27
Derek Stepan, playing with a guard on his helmet to protect a broken jaw suffered from a Brandon Prust hit in Game 3, returned to the lineup to score twice for the Rangers. Chris Kreider had a goal and three assists and Rick Nash also scored.
At 10:41 of the third, Rangers defenceman John Moore was given a major penalty and was ejected for a blindside, open ice hit on Dale Weise that was almost identical to Prust’s hit on Stepan. Weise was wobbly when he got up and went for treatment, but returned to the bench late in the period.
“The league will do what it has to do. I think he was penalized on the ice,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. “John is definitely not the type of player to try to hurt someone, but it was a late hit and it was the right call on the ice.”
It was a night of strange bounces and spotty goaltending, even if New York’s best chance of the game saw Carl Hagelin’s shot stopped by the end of Dustin Tokarski’s stick midway through the first period.
Lundqvist was pulled in favour of Cam Talbot after allowing four goals on 19 shots, while Tokarski stayed in despite allowing four on his first 14.
The Rangers did a good job of cancelling the initial rush Montreal gets from its pre-game buildup in winning the opening two games of the series, but Ginette Reno’s O Canada worked to plan this time.
Only 22 seconds in, Kreider was sent off for tripping and the Canadiens converted when Galchenyuk tipped in P.K. Subban’s point shot from the edge of the crease at 1:48.
Stepan tied it at 10:44 of the first on a 30-foot shot off a rush that fooled Tokarski. Plekanec restored the lead with a similar goal at 12:24 as he swiped the puck between two defenders and saw it beat Lundqvist.
The second period was a festival of goals.
Pacioretty got it started on a gritty feed from Brendan Gallagher at 3:44 and Bourque gave Montreal a three-goal lead when he spun and scored from close range. That chased Lundqvist.
“I pulled him because I thought at that time we needed a little momentum shift, and I thought it might catch everybody’s attention,” said Vigneault. “It did for a while. Obviously, it didn’t work out.”
Nash whipped a puck at the Montreal net and saw it go in off defenceman Andrei Markov’s skate 9:48, Stepan got his second in a mass scramble in front of Tokarski at 12:06 and Kreider tied it on a power play at 14:12 on a tic-tac-toe play after Subban lost his stick.
The Bell Centre went quiet, but exploded again when Bourque got his second at 15:10 as he beat Talbot from 10 feet out.
During the second intermission Therrien spoke in the Montreal locker-room about staying in control of the puck and staying confident.
“I told the players between the second and third period, pretty simple, we tied second period score with the goal of Bourque late in the second,” said Therrien. “So it gave us the confidence to play.”
Several hats were thrown on the ice after Weise sent Bourque in alone to get his third of the game 6:33 into the third period. Desharnais scored into an empty net during a New York power play at 15:43 and crowd sang Ole Ole in celebration.