Rabid Habs

What Just Happened? Habs quiet Rangers, take 2-1 lead

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Rd1

If game two was a frantic, heart racing affair, Sunday night’s game at the Garden was more of a slow burn. For a playoff game, the Garden was somewhat subdued from the start, a phenomenon that was matched by the listless play of the New York Rangers.

At the end of the night, your Montreal Canadiens left the ice with a 2-1 series lead, and if you watched NBCSN’s broadcast of the games (sorry, Canadians), you may have heard Gord Miller point out how this series hung in the balance. The Canadiens were less than 20 seconds away from going down two games to none in this series. Instead, the Habs no find themselves ahead in the series, seemingly propelled by the inspirational efforts of Tomas Plekanec and Alexander Radulov in game two that carried over to game three.

But that was game two. Game three had a different feel. So, again, we ask What Just Happened?

The Defense was Air-Tight

After playing five defenseman for the majority of game two, the Canadiens subtracted Nikita Nesterov and added Brandon Davidson. Davidson didn’t make or break the Canadiens defense, which suits Claude Julien just fine. Davidson filled in a need on the third pairing, and was unnoticeable in the best possible way.

While the third pairing had a quiet night, the top four was dominant, and the Rangers’ scoring chance totals reflected that. Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 10.52.23 PM

The Rangers went up to five minutes at a time without a scoring chance, as the Canadiens defense rarely allowed the Blueshirts the ability to get set up offensively. While Shea Weber and Andrei Markov deserve a ton of credit for the minutes they’ve logged over the last two games, the second pairing of Jordie Benn and Jeff Petry was simply brilliant. The two players compliment each other very well, as Benn is more of a stay-at-home defenseman with a very smart stick, while Petry enjoys the transition game.

The Canadiens made Carey Price’s night one goalies dream about, as he faced just 21 shots.

Artturi Lehkonen is on the Board

First of all, stick tap to our very own A.J. Bassett for calling this minutes before it happened.

And it happened just as A.J. said it would. Lehkonen has battled for space in each of the first three games, and he finally got that space on the power play. A slick passing play from Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec made its way to Lehkonen in front of the net, and he made no mistake. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the only Montreal Canadien with a better shot release than Artturi Lehkonen is Max Pacioretty.

Lehkonen’s first goal of his playoff career puts him in good company in Canadiens history.

Saku forever.

The Power Play Clicked

At times it looked like it would never get going, but the Canadiens’ power play managed to find the back of the net twice at MSG. After Lehkonen capitalized on J.T. Miller’s two minute face-off violation, Shea Weber would get one of his own to extend the Canadiens lead.

The star on that second power play? Alex Galchenyuk. With the clock ticking down on the second half of Mats Zuccarello’s high-sticking double minor, Galchenyuk became the catalyst with the man-advantage as he out-waited the Ranger defense before putting a sure goal on Weber’s stick. After receiving a beautiful Radulov feed from the boards, Galchenyuk takes the power play over.

If the Canadiens can continue to score at even strength while keeping the power play hot, the Rangers may be in for a world of hurt.

Alexander Radulov is a bad man

I’m just going to leave this here. Not really much to say.

Radulov has five points in three games.

Generally, I think the Canadiens wanted to slow the pace of the game down, and I think they executed that game plan perfectly. In games one and two, the Rangers were successful when they got to use their speed through neutral ice. The Canadiens focused on a strong transition game, and turned Rangers’ rushes into zone exits in mere seconds.

If Montreal wants to head back to the Bell Centre up three games to one, they’ll need more of the same in game four.

The puck drops for game four on Tuesday at 7:00 pm EST.

Follow Ian on Twitter @BoisvertIan and follow @RabidHabs for more updates. 

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