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Canadiens stay alive with 7-4 win over Rangers in wild Game 5

Montreal Canadiens' Alex Galchenyuk, right, celebrates with teammate P.K. Subban after scoring on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist during first period in game five of the NHL Eastern Conference final Stanley Cup playoff action Tuesday, May 27, 2014 in Montreal.

The Canadian Press

Narratives change, plots twist.

Sometimes it's the result of editing or writerly licence, occasionally because they shoot off of in unpredictable directions, seemingly of their own volition.

Take the story of New York Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was haunted by the Bell Centre ghosts – until he wasn't, playing brilliantly in the first two games of the Eastern Conference final and looking for all the world a Conn Smythe candidate.

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There he was leaving the ice, head shaking, midway through the second period of game five, having given up four goals on 18 shots.

Was he lifted because of an injury, coach Alain Vigneault was asked after?

"No," he said.

Instead, Vigneault said, "I pulled him because I thought at that time we needed a little momentum shift, and I thought it might catch everybody's attention."

It certainly captured the Bell Centre's attention, the Rangers might want to end this series at home on Thursday rather than risk having Lundqvist play a game seven in Montreal.

Another classic storyline: teams in these playoffs have overcome a plethora of two-goal leads (more than a dozen at last count), so the Montreal Canadiens should have been okay with a three-goal bulge, right?

Not so much.

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A lucky own-goal from Habs defenceman Josh Gorges, who tipped Rick Nash's speculative shot from the goal line past his own goalie, Dustin Tokarski, kicked off a Rangers flurry that saw them score three goals on four shots – one from Derek Stepan, thought to be out indefinitely with a broken jaw just two days ago, the last from Chris Kreider, a.k.a. He Who Felled Carey (his skates-first slide into star Montreal goalie Carey Price in game one changed the tenor of the series).

On the Montreal bench, coach Michel Therrien surveyed the situation, and elected not to use his timeout.

"The reason I didn't call timeout is because I felt our attitude on the bench was good. When they tied the game, attitude was sharp and we scored not too far after, so we didn't decide to call a timeout because as a coach you had a feeling that your team is losing confidence, but that was not the case," he said.

So the team that roars back from a three-goal deficit in the space of 4:24 of a single period must carry all the momentum, correct?

Yeah, but no.

Montreal was back out in front 58 seconds after Kreider (one goal, three assists on the night) scored his power-play equalizer; Rene Bourque, playoff stud in round one, enigmatic missing person in rounds two and three, scored his second of the game on a pretty passing play by Dale Weise and Lars Eller.

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In the third period, the Habs came out with afterburners ablaze, creating a passel of scoring chances, including a Bourque deflection off the post to Ranger backup Cam Talbot's right.

The inevitable happened at 6:33, Weise's pass sprung Bourque between the Rangers' top defensive pair of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, he promptly zipped an unstoppable forehand past Talbot's earhole for his hat trick goal, 6-4 Habs.

"He was a force out there," Therrien said of Bourque.

Now, about the idea that a team with a 3-1 series lead ends up advancing about 98 per cent of the time.

That one might now be cast into doubt too, given the Habs' 7-4 game five triumph (David Desharnais scored into an empty net).

New York defenceman Dan Girardi described it as "a gong show," when it was put to Tokarski that it was a throwback to the 1980s, the netminder, who was born in 1989, said "I don't know much about it, but I'm assuming that's what it was like."

Conventional wisdom going in held that it would be a tall ask for Montreal to beat Lundqvist three straight times to advance to the Stanley Cup final. The odds are still against them, but maybe they've been trimmed a little.

"We got a little cute at times and let them back in the game, but like we've done all year, we've got great leadership and great composure on our bench, we were able to stay calm and get to the things that made us successful," said Brendan Gallagher. "We've earned one more game together and we're going to try and go do the same thing."

The examples of zig-zagging plot twists and counter-narratives from game five are nearly too numerous to catalogue.

Tokarski was incredibly good, then he wasn't, then he was again, shutting the door on Rick Nash in the third with the Habs playing three-on-five, stoning Kreider with the New York net empty.

Asked after the game whether he felt as calm as he looked, Tokarski smiled and said "suuure."

When another reporter asked how he managed to keep his composure after the Rangers made their comeback, "at that point, it's a tie game, we're at home with the crowd behind us, the next shot can win so you have to stay focused."

Then you had Rangers defenceman John Moore smoking Weise with an illegal head shot – not consistent with Alain Vigneault's description of a squad that plays within the rules (the hit was more or less identical to the one Brandon Prust laid on Stepan, earning a two-game sit-down).

This game featured plenty of nastiness, some of it legal – Moore's thunderous hit on Weise that slammed the Montreal forward into the curved glass at the end of the Rangers' bench, Weise's open-ice rebuttal a period later – and some of it less so.

Derek Dorsett might expect a quick call from the league to explain his headbutt on Mike Weaver in front of the Montreal net with about 30 seconds to play.

At the final horn, Dorsett – who began the evening by giving one of the pre-game flagbearers a snow shower – skated over and took a poke at Bourque with his stick, who retaliated with a meaty cross-check that earned him a major penalty and a misconduct.

Bourque was in tetchy form all night, jousting after whistles with several Rangers, including Marc Staal; he was also in the middle of a scrum, with Weise and Francis Bouillon that saw five players (including Dorsett) sent to the box.

As the temperature rises on the series, the Rangers would be well-advised to review the tapes of the Montreal-Boston series for a reminder that this – making their opponents lose their marbles – is like oxygen to the Habs.

The Habs bolted out of the gate as if they had a firm understanding of the stakes; they had promised to do just that.

The Rangers made their first foray in to the Montreal end after the opening faceoff, but some decent zone time by Eller's line, the puck squirted out to the right point where P.K. Subban whirled away from Kreider the latter missed his check, his foot caught the defenceman's skate, over went Subban, up went the referee's arm.

That was at the 32 second mark of the first, the crowd was appreciative.

Montreal's power-play misfired badly on eight opportunities in game four – and assuredly cost them a victory – but adjustments have clearly been made.

Though the Rangers snuffed out a few chances in the first half of the power-play, Subban and Markov switched positions at the blue line, giving the former Norris Trophy winner (terrible until he was great in this series) a one-time opportunity that Alex Galchenyuk – who saw little action on the power-play in game four – reached behind him and made a dazzling skill play to neatly tip the shot between Henrik Lundqvist's legs at 1:48.

Kreider was briefly the goat, naturally it didn't last.

At the six minute mark of the period, the Rangers finally got their first shot, it was a serious scoring chance that fell to Brad Richards at the side of the net, Tokarski squared up and took it on the chest.

More was shortly to come from the Watson, Sask., native.

After Markov was caught trying to corral a bouncing puck and the offensive blue-line, Martin St. Louis skated up ice on a slow-developing two-on-one with Carl Hagelin; the Swedish winger's shot, labeled for the top corner, was instead deflected into the netting by the know of Tokarski's stick as he lunged across.

The Bell Centre, not for the first time, stood and chanted "To-kar-ski".

"I saw it was a bit of an odd-man rush, I was challenging pretty good and I just had to get over there once he passed it over, and it came off the knob of my stick, so I was pretty lucky," Tokarski said.

It follows, of course, that Tokarski would give up a soft goal just under five minutes later; Stepan took an inoffensive shot that snuck inside the Montreal goalie's right post; Kreider set up the play.

Not to be outdone, Lundqvist allowed a similarly pungent goal less than two minutes later, Tomas Plekanec cruised through the middle of the New York zone and uncorked his trademark against-the-grain snap shot, which Lundqvist whiffed on with his catching glove.

The Habs made it 4-1 when Max Pacioretty, who vowed before the game to better than in game four, cashed in from the slot after Gallagher, the poster boy for never-say-die, swept him a cross-ice pass while lying on his stomach, fresh from an encounter with Rangers blue liner Marc Staal.

"You can't make that one if you're not 100 per cent sure, it's a pretty risky play, but I had a pretty good mental picture of it," Gallagher said.

At least in that case, the script followed its usual course.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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