Keep your chin up.
That was the best advice the Montreal Canadiens gave to young goalie Dustin Tokarski after he allowed Rangers winger Martin St. Louis to score the overtime winner Sunday in New York’s 3-2 victory in Game 4.
While it may have been a devastating loss and pushed the Habs to the brink of exiting the playoffs, the players made sure Tokarski didn’t let the goal shatter his confidence.
“We don’t even question him,” said Habs centre Tomas Plekanec. “He’s the reason that we’re in this series. He has played so well since (Carey) Price got hurt. There’s absolutely no issues with the goaltending on our side.”
The Habs need Tokarski to save their season. That doesn’t mean the players will treat him any differently.
“After a tough OT loss, you’re going to try to support him no matter who it is — whether it is Dustin or Carey,” said Montreal captain Brian Gionta. “He has played extremely well for us.
“He gave us a chance to win (Sunday) with some of the big saves he made. They were the reason why we were in that game.”
The Habs have to hope Tokarski doesn’t dwell on what went wrong.
THIS ’N’ THAT
New York forward Derek Stepan, who broke his jaw on a late hit on Thursday from Brandon Prust and had surgery on Saturday, made the trip to Montreal. He hasn’t been completely ruled out for Game 5, but would need protection for his face if he does play. “I couldn’t say (if he’s available). I have no idea,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault at the club’s downtown hotel. The Rangers left centre J.T. Miller at home with an upper-body injury ... The Habs have to do a better job of getting to Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist if they are going to extend this series. He has been seeing the puck too much and there hasn’t been enough traffic in front. “He’s a great goalie. We’ve just got to keep wearing him down and keep putting pucks at the net,” said Plekanec. “That’s the one thing we can do more: We can put more pucks in the crease. You could see it (Sunday), we put more pucks in the crease and we had chances out of it. That’s the way to score goals.” Lundqvist picked up his career-high 11th playoff victory in Game 6. He has a 1.98 GAA in the post-season and has a 6-1 record in his past seven games.
OFF THE GLASS
The Rangers are looking for their first trip to the Stanley Cup final since they won the title in 1994. “A great part of playing with an Original Six team is history, but we’re trying to create our own history,” said centre Brad Richards ... The finger-pointing has begun. A member of the Montreal media tried to get coach Michel Therrien to talk about the indifferent play of defenceman Alexei Emelin in this series, but the coach wouldn’t get involved. “I’m not going to start talking about individual players. One of the reasons we’re in the conference final, it’s because we need contributions from everyone, offensively and defensively,” said Therrien. “Emelin is part of the recipe that got us to the conference final. It’s a different kind of challenge to play against the Rangers, we’re all aware of that. We have to concentrate and focus well both as a team and as individuals.”
AROUND THE BOARDS
If the Habs don’t win, then the off-season work begins for GM Marc Bergevin. This could be the final game in a Montreal uniform for UFA’s Thomas Vanek, Andrei Markov, Francis Bouillon, Mike Weaver and Gionta. George Parros and Douglas Murray are also UFAs on July 1, but haven’t suited up with any regularity in the post-season ... The Habs have gone 1-for-17 in this series on the power play and were 1-for-8 in Game 4 . They just haven’t been good enough. “I think in the Boston series, our power play got us through a lot of games and was huge for us,” said winger Rene Bourque. “We need that to carry over into this series. It has been tough so far, but (Sunday) was a game where we needed it to come through. We had numerous opportunities to put that game away and the big goals early in the game didn’t happen.”
THE LAST WORDS
The Rangers don’t want to let the Habs off the mat. “They’ll be a dangerous team,” said Richards. “A little bit of hope can change everything. They’re at home, which helps even more. We just (came back from 3-1 versus the Penguins) and we had two road games out of the three. They will feel comfortable here and they probably feel like if they can win one, it could go seven. It’s far from over. They just want to get in the game and into battle because that’s the most comfortable place they can be right now.”