A goal had been on Martin St. Louis' stick twice during Sunday night's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, and Montreal rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski -- 14 years his junior -- had robbed him from in close.
But in overtime, St. Louis made his last shot count.
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"Good play on the wall by Richie [Brad Richards] to keep the puck in," said St. Louis, who beat Tokarski from the right side at 6:02 of overtime to give the Rangers a 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden and bring them within one win of their first Stanley Cup Final berth in 20 years. They lead the best-of-seven series 3-1.
Carl Hagelin slid St. Louis the puck and "I felt I had room and tried to trust what I saw," he said. "I've gone to that [short] side quite a bit in the last few games and he's made some good saves. You get this far and you have to trust yourself."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said St. Louis works on that shot 50 times every practice.
The last time St. Louis had scored an overtime winner was in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final in Calgary in 2004, when the Lightning won the Cup. The Rangers are not there yet, but they are close to getting to the big stage.
The Blueshirts have won six of their last seven playoff games and are 12-1 in playoff series in which they've led 3-1. Game 5 is in Montreal Tuesday night and Game 6, if necessary, would be Thursday at the Garden.
"It's quite a big difference up 3-1 instead of 2-2," said St. Louis, who had watched the Rangers lose, 3-2, in overtime in Game 3. "We were well aware of the opportunity we had with these two games at home.''
By marching to the penalty box early, often and late, the Rangers almost handed the game to the Canadiens. Benoit Pouliot committed the Rangers' eighth penalty just 30 seconds into overtime, holding P.K. Subban's stick in the offensive zone. Seven of the fouls were in the offensive zone, including two by Pouliot. But the Rangers killed the last one and then attacked.
"It was a big kill and we got some momentum off it," Ryan McDonagh said. "We didn't panic. We had a lot of practice [on the penalty kill] during the game. It was a gritty win for sure. You clearly don't want to be in the box that much.''
The Rangers played without their No. 1 center, Derek Stepan, who was sidelined with a broken jaw, but they did have center Derick Brassard back. He had missed all but 35 seconds of the series with a shoulder injury suffered in Game 1.
Brassard gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead on a breakaway, off a stretch pass from Dan Girardi. He pulled up and ripped a slap shot past Tokarski with 56 seconds left in the second period.
Said Brassard, "When he came out, I knew I was going short side, and I was thinking, 'Should I deke or shoot?' I wound up and it went in.''
But a penalty on Dominic Moore opened the door for the Habs in the third, and Subban tied the score at 2 two minutes into the period.
Hagelin's shorthanded breakaway at 7:18 of the first period, on a long pass from Brian Boyle, provided a 1-0 lead, but Francis Bouillon's rising shot from the left dot clipped Henrik Lundqvist's shoulder and went in at 8:08 of the second period.
Lundqvist, who made 27 saves, including five in overtime, held the fort until St. Louis finished Montreal for the night.
"We have to realize the longer this [series] goes, the more life they have," Richards said. "We have to come out strong on Tuesday. And our discipline has to be a lot better.''
Tokarski, who replaced Carey Price (knee) in Game 2 of the series, finished with 26 saves. "We have to find a way to regroup. This series isn't over," Montreal's Brian Gionta said. "It's a bitter loss, but at the end of the day, we are still in this series."