Tonight is one of those nights where the fans will be into it before face-off. The Rangers look to advance versus the Canadiens in Game 6 at what should be a loud MSG at 8 PM. This is the game they have to have. At home with a chance to move on to the second round. They don’t want to go back to Montreal for Game 7.
The Rangers are in this position thanks to consecutive wins in Games 4 and 5. Following a complete effort in a 2-1 home win on Rick Nash’s game-winner, they fought back valiantly from two one-goal deficits to force overtime in Game 5 at Bell Centre. The turning point was Nash taking the puck hard to the net and forcing Carey Price to give up a rebound which poised rookie defenseman Brady Skjei deposited with 1:32 left in the second period.
Afterwards, it was the Blueshirts who got their game together. They still needed a huge save from Henrik Lundqvist robbing Max Pacioretty on a breakaway with 7:11 remaining in regulation. Without it, we’re probably not talking about a potential close out game tonight. He made 34 saves and has stopped 20 more shots than Price in the series. Both netminders have allowed 10 goals but it’s Lundqvist who’s faced more pressure and been the better goalie. Now, he and his teammates get the chance to finish off a desperate Canadiens team on home ice. They better take it.
They’re here despite only one point from Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. None from Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller. There was a Chris Kreider sighting in Game 5. It came at the right time. After fanning on a great set up from Mika Zibanejad, he used his speed to gain the Montreal zone and take a shot that deflected off nemesis Alexei Emelin right to Zibanejad for the uplifting overtime winner. His first of the series coming in a big moment in what was the 24-year old center’s best game. He also made the defensive play and pass leading to Jesper Fast’s shorthanded goal.
Ever since Alain Vigneault inserted Pavel Buchnevich to reunite with Zibanejad and Kreider, they have been a dangerous line. Using their speed and skating, they’ve been tough on the forecheck generating chances and good shots. The lineup has better balance with Stepan working with Nash and impressive first-year player Jimmy Vesey, who has had a impact. He has two assists but has come close to scoring. Maybe he gets one later.
The power play has yet to score in 14 chances. It says here that they will need a power play goal in this game. At some point, it needs to come through. If I see Hayes pass up on another shot for another forced pass, I’m gonna lose it. He is a waste if he doesn’t look shot.
The Habs will be desperate. They are still looking for Pacioretty’s first goal. He leads them in shots in the series. So, he’s taking them. They’re not going in. Lundqvist is a big reason why. Claude Julien basically called out his captain indicating that they need key players to show up. You know who.
Montreal will be without pest Andrew Shaw, who took a tough hit from Dan Girardi that sent him into the boards. Brian Flynn comes in. Julien also is making one more change. Michael McCarron will play. Brandon Davidson will also play over Nathan Beaulieu on the back end.
So, the Habs will have a different look. It should be interesting. Can the Rangers close out their hated rival at MSG? We’ll find out.