The New York Rangers finally put an end to a maddening playoff losing streak at home and in the process turned their Eastern Conference first-round series into what amounts to a best-of-three. After squaring the series with a 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers will visit the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 on Thursday night.
“It’s no secret we’ve been really disappointed with the way things have been going at home the past two years here in the playoffs, so we needed this win for this series, but also moving forward,” New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said after his team ended a six-game postseason skid at home. Although the Canadiens have the advantage of playing at Bell Centre twice more if the series goes the limit, that may be much of an edge against New York, which posted a league-high 27 road wins this season. Montreal controlled play in winning Games 2 and 3, peppering Lundqvist with 87 shots on net, but New York turned the tables in Game 4 and limited the Canadiens to a series-low 21 shots. “We weren’t able to find the back of the net,” Montreal coach Claude Julien said. “Some nights you get some breaks and some nights you don’t. We need to be better if we want to win games in this series.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, USA, MSG (New York), CBC, TVAS (Montreal)
ABOUT THE RANGERS: Forward Rick Nash closed the regular season by scoring five times in his last eight games to finish with 23 goals and is carrying it over to the playoffs. Nash scored in Game 2 -- which New York lost in overtime -- and delivered the game-winning tally in Game 4, boosting his totals to seven goals and six assists in his last 13 playoff games. ”I was trying to go to the net all night and trying to cause some chaos,“ Nash said after Tuesday’s victory. ”We let it all go and put it behind us. We had to. We couldn’t be going back to Montreal down 3-1.”
ABOUT THE CANADIENS: Captain Max Pacioretty has scored at least 30 goals in four straight seasons and is still searching for his first of the series, managing only one assist through the four games. but Julien is not concerned. “This is a sport that has ups and downs,” Julien said. ”At the end of the day, we look at the big picture and that’s what’s important. And Max Pacioretty, I think we’re pretty happy to have him here in Montreal.” On Tuesday, Julien shifted Alex Galchenyuk to a line with Artturi Lehkonen and Alexander Radulov, who has six points in the last three games.
1. Montreal has killed off all 12 power-play chances by New York in the series.
2. Rangers rookie F Pavel Buchnevich made his series debut in Game 4 and had three shots on goal and two hits.
3. Canadiens D Alexei Emelin, who has yet to play in the series, practiced Wednesday and could return to the lineup in Game 5.
PREDICTION: Rangers 3, Canadiens 2