Martin St. Louis says everyone wants to be "the guy'' in the situation he and everybody else found themselves in Sunday night. Truth is, over the past few weeks, St. Louis has proved to be The Man every day and every night for the Rangers.
This time, it was official. He fired home a shot to the short side of goalie Dustin Tokarski at 6:02 of overtime, then disappeared under a happy group of teammates congratulating him.
It ensured a happy trip to Montreal on Monday for his team and as good a homecoming as he could imagine right about now. He and the Rangers are one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
"These are the times that, when you play as a kid, you picture this,'' he said after his goal secured a 3-2 win over the Canadiens at Madison Square Garden and gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
"Everybody wants to be the guy. There's no bad shot on net at that stage of the game -- like their goal in the last game in overtime. We tried to manage the puck and not give them too much, and when we had a chance to go, we'd go.''
One more win and the Rangers will be going to the final round. As much as anyone, they have St. Louis to thank. The Rangers have thrived on the leadership he has shown since his mother died of a heart attack late in what seemed like a hopeless second-round series against the Penguins. He gave them a lift in Game 5, scored the first goal in Game 6 and rallied them into this series -- between bittersweet trips home to Montreal.
"He's a great hockey player no matter what,'' said Brad Richards, his best friend on the team from their days together on the Lightning and the player who began the pivotal final play by keeping the puck in the zone.
"Mentally, it's been impressive to go through what he's gone through. I think it's also a getaway for him. He's using it. He knows there's a time to settle down and grieve, but he's doing this on good emotion from his mom. He obviously wants big things for that situation. So he's obviously just riding it.''
St. Louis wasn't discouraged after Tokarski, the kid goalie, made an unbelievable glove save on him in regulation. In overtime, he figured it was OK to head to the net because Carl Hagelin was in good defensive position in case the puck popped out.
"Hags slides it over and it was a quick play to me,'' he said. "It bought me time to go in and get up and get the shot that I wanted.''
So now he is going home again. Montreal is where St. Louis grew up idolizing the Canadiens, watching the French- language telecasts of Hockey Night in Canada every week with his dad. "I lived and breathed the Canadiens growing up,'' he said. "They were a big source of inspiration to get where I wanted to be.''
Home was where he dreamed about having a night like Sunday night. It was where, as a youth, he started on his way to being The Man.