(Photo: John Mahoney/The Gazette)
Michel Therrien and Alain Vigneault singled out the same New York Ranger as the difference-maker in the Rangers 3-1 victory over the Canadiens Monday at the Bell Centre.
“The reason why tonight that we lost the game is (Henrik) Lundqvist,” Therrien said of the Rangers goaltender who made 40 saves.
“Lundqvist was phenomenal. Phenomenal,” Therrien added for emphasis.
“He stole the game and those things happen in the playoffs.
“But I liked the way that we approached tonight’s game. You need a couple of breaks. And when you get those breaks momentum could change really quick in the playoffs.”
Lundqvist was the only reason they were still in the game, said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault.
“(The Canadiens) had a tremendous push. They had total control and possession of the game. And they score, they make it 1-0. Obviously the turning point is us within a minute scoring to tie it up off a lucky bounce,” Vigneault said.
“That changed the momentum, it changed the dynamics of the game a little bit.”
The Canadiens started the game exactly as he hoped, Therrien said.
“I liked our team effort. I think our effort was great tonight.”
The Canadiens outshot the Rangers 41-30 and couldn’t capitalize on their four power play opportunities.
In a surprise move, Therrien opted for Dustin Tokarski instead of back-up goaltender Peter Budaj to start in goal in place of an injured Carey Price.
The No. 1 reason they decided to go with Tokarski is “you look at his track record–he’s a winner,” Therrien said.
Tokarski has back-stopped championship teams from the midget level through to the American Hockey League when he won the Calder Cup in 2012 with the Norfolk Admirals. The 24-year-old goaltender was playing in his first NHL playoff game and won praise from Therrien for his performance.
“I thought he played well tonight,” the coach said.
Tokarski said he was excited when he learned before the morning skate that he was getting the start in goal.
“I thought I played well, but…I came up a bit short. A save or two changes the momentum a bit somewhere in the game.”
He got some encouragement from Price, who was injured in Game 1 on Saturday when Chris Kreider collided with him.
“He shook my hand and said ‘Go out there, get ’em, play your game and be a warrior out there,'” Tokarski recounted after the game.
You can watch what Tokarski had to say here:
You can watch P.K. Subban here:
(Video: Brenda Branswell)