Canadiens can't walk the walk

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Brendan Gallagher (11) of the Montreal Canadiens tries

Brendan Gallagher (11) of the Montreal Canadiens tries to skate between Ryan McDonagh (27) and Dan Girardi (5) of the Rangers during the second period of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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Arthur Staple Arthur Staple

Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.

The Canadiens talked the talk before Game 4. Good grief, did they ever talk.

But chirping about injuries or dirty play from the other side is, in the NHL postseason, one of the last acts of desperation.

You have to back up that barking with some bite or else it's all just sour grapes.

The Rangers certainly played most of Sunday night's game as if they wanted the Canadiens to feel good about all that talking.

The Garden faithful moaned and groaned every time the big scoreboard showed a replay of another Rangers penalty -- and showed a Canadiens player acting as if he'd taken a machete to the face -- but Alain Vigneault was right when he said this was on the Rangers.

They were careless and reckless and it could have cost them the lead in this series.

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But the Canadiens couldn't back up the talk.

Vigneault and Michel Therrien are old friends, so talk is all it's really been, entertainment to pass the time with two days between games.

Therrien gave a passionate defense of his close friendship with Vigneault on Sunday afternoon, promising the two will drink a cold beer together once the summer comes.

So it may have seemed inflammatory, but all of the intimations about injuries and Danny Briere's comparison of Ryan McDonagh to the Mad Slasher, Chris Pronger, were quite harmless.

Even more so now with the Rangers up 3-1 in the series and needing one more win to get to their first Stanley Cup Final in two decades.

"The pressure is on them," said Derick Brassard, back from that much-discussed injury to score a goal and generally play like someone who wasn't worried about whether his opponents would be targeting his injured spot. "They have to fight for their lives."

And you can bet Therrien and his veteran players knew that when the chatter began in earnest after the Rangers' two wins in Montreal.

The Canadiens had lost their best player, goalie Carey Price, to an accidental injury. That went from being an obvious, unfortunate accident to recklessness on Chris Kreider's part, according to Therrien, who tried to compare that collision to Brandon Prust's shoulder that broke Derek Stepan's jaw in Game 3 in the battle of incendiary remarks from the coaches.

Vigneault wasn't blameless in all this talk. He had confidently proclaimed that the Rangers would see Price for Game 2 in Montreal and reminded the audience that Prust was the one who called Kreider's collision with Price "accidentally on purpose," seeming to imply that Prust was looking for retribution when he delivered his suspendable hit on Stepan.

But there was more at stake for the Canadiens, who doubled down on the chatter after winning a Game 3 in which Therrien had to know his team was second best most of the night.

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They had chance after chance in Game 4, eight power plays in all -- and how Vigneault put Benoit Pouliot out for a shift in overtime after that holding-the-stick penalty 30 seconds into the extra period, I'll never know -- but the Canadiens could not back up their talk, close as they came.

Therrien did say this, in French, before Game 4: "Les deux équipes veulent gagner. Le reste est un show de boucane."

Loosely translated: Both teams want to win. The rest is a smokescreen.

You have to back up that talk, though.

There's no easy translation for the phrase, but now it all just sounds like sour grapes from the Canadiens.

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