The Montreal Canadiens played their best game of the series on Tuesday night. They will need to be even better in order to come back home for a Game 7 on Saturday.
The Canadiens and most of their key players showed up with their best performance in a do-or-die game. If the Canadiens fall tonight to the Rangers, you have to think people will be wondering where that team was for Games 1-4.
There was also help from Henrik Lundqvist who had by far his worst performance of the series – but then again Dustin Tokarski wasn’t great all of the time either. You can expect Lundqvist to be better in Game 6 which is why the Canadiens will have to be better too.
I was at the game on Tuesday and I never felt as if the game was in doubt – even when it was 4-4. They need that kind of conviction again. Put bodies and pucks on Lundqvist and make life difficult for him. He might very well be better tonight but don’t make it easy for him.
Brandon Prust will return to the lineup, presumably replacing Dale Weise who presumably is out with a concussion. Alexei Emelin is officially a game-time decision but I don’t see how he can recover from whatever ailed him to miss Game 5 in two days. I’d rather Nathan Beaulieu on two good legs than Emelin on one. But then again, I’m not allergic to young players.
I’ve said it a few times during the playoffs – the Canadiens always tend to play their best when no one believes in them. Games 6 and 7 against Boston were their best performances in the series. When Carey Price went down, Game 2 was their best team effort at that point. When they went down 3-1, once again, people stopped believing in them and once again pulled off their best game.
Since 2010, the Canadiens are 8-3 in elimination games. A lot of those players remain on the team from that point. They know what it takes to win and those players – Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta among others – were great in Game 5. Tonight another challenge awaits.
This was always going to be the hardest game for Montreal. On the road, facing a Rangers team that desperately wants to end this series and not go back to Montreal. Both games in New York in this series went to overtime but Montreal had a chance to win both.
Tonight, being close will mean absolutely nothing.