MONTREAL (CBSNewYork/AP) — Henrik Lundqvist is a big reason the New York Rangers are on the doorstep of their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.
But the extraordinary goalie had a rather ordinary night on Tuesday as the Montreal Canadiens chased him — and avoided elimination — in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“It was just not good enough,” Lundqvist said after the 7-4 loss. “The bottom line is I think all of us have to be better, starting with me. As a group we have to come back with a better performance. I know there’s a lot of focus on me, but I think we all have to step up here.”
Lundqvist let in four goals on only 19 shots before he was pulled at 8:58 of the second period in favor of Cam Talbot.
“I pulled him because I thought at that time we needed a little momentum shift, and I thought it might catch everybody’s attention,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “It did for a while. Obviously it didn’t work out.”
Montreal’s Dustin Tokarski, starting a fourth game since Carey Price was injured in the series opener, allowed four on his first 14 shots, but then made some big saves in the third to preserve the win.
It prompted a bold observation from Rene Bourque, who scored three goals Tuesday night.
“Everybody talks about how he is a great goalie. Has he been better than (Tokarski) this series?” Bourque asked. “I don’t think so.”
“(Tokarski) made some big saves for us too,” he added. “We had a couple bad bounces but our power play was the difference. We got some traction, got a couple goals in tight.”
Bourque’s second goal proved to be the winner and came just after the Rangers came back to tie the game at 4-4 in the second period.
“I think you’re starting to see us playing Montreal Canadiens hockey,” Montreal forward Max Pacioretty said. “I don’t think you’ve really seen it in this series just yet.”
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.
The Rangers, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, will have another chance to earn a trip to the Stanley Cup final in Game 6 on Thursday night in New York.
“It was just a strange game,” Vigneault said. “It was a different game from what we’ve seen so far in the series, but now we’re going home.”
It was the third time in these playoffs that the Canadiens have faced elimination.
As they did after falling behind 3-2 to Boston in the conference semifinals, they came up with their best hockey to stay alive.
Pacioretty feels that being under pressure helps his team focus.
“There’s a lot of distractions and noise in this city and I think that when we let it affect us and we don’t worry about ourselves and what we can control we get away from our game a bit,” he said.
“Now that we’re in desperation mode and our backs are against the wall, we’re just worrying about what we can control.
“When we get four lines buzzing like that and play the way we’re capable of we have a lot of success. Hopefully we can do that next game.”
The Rangers weren’t facing the same desperation and spent the game trying to play catch-up. Going 1 for 7 on the power play didn’t help.
“We believe in each other. We believe we’re a good team,” Lundqvist said. “When we play at our best we’re a really good team. We just have to go back to New York, work on a few things and get back on track.”
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