It began with such promise. The Canadiens came out flying, they were a team on a mission, a team that looked like they wanted it in a big way.
All four lines were motoring. The DD, Max, Gally combo especially was on fire, and after some great work during that first frame, Max slipped it by Henrik Lundqvist and the building was alive.
Happy days were here again. Strike up the band.
The joy lasted 17 seconds.
A puck off Josh Gorges, the score was tied just like that, and in the last minute of play Rick Nash beat Dustin Tokarski on his glove side, it became a 2-1 contest, and all that flying around and buzzing in the Rangers’ end was sucked down the drain.
The killer came in the second when Alex Galchenyuk was sent to the box for sort of tripping Carl Hagelin, who should have no problem getting a job as stuntman in Hollywood when his playing days are over. And with the man advantage, Martin St. Louis converted a nice passing play and it became a very discouraging 3-1 score for the visitors.
Montreal just couldn’t solve Lundqvist, no matter how well they were playing. And there was a young and inexperienced goaltender down at the other end who would need more than just one feeble goal from his guys to help matters.
That was that. A 3-1 win by New York, the Canadiens are now in a huge hole, and although Dustin Tokarski played well, he didn’t provide miracles, which we were relying on him to do in storybook fashion.
The fact is, although the Canadiens outshot the Rangers 41-30, they also flubbed way too many chances, chances that didn’t hit the net, pucks over the net, pucks shot wide, and of course far too many pucks that Lundqvist saw.
And then there’s Thomas Vanek, who can soon go to Minnesota and live happily after. If they still want him.
This guy isn’t close to what we saw in the regular season. You remember – the guy who revitalized Max and helped create a sensational big line, who made smart pinpoint passes, who hit the back of the net when the opportunity arose.
The guy who was turning out to be our best player. Who helped lead the charge in the final month. The guy we wanted management to shower with money. The one who was going to love Montreal’s hockey atmosphere so much. We had a sliver of hope that he’d stay and become a full-time Hab.
Now, for lack of a better description, he’s become a bum.
He’s making horrible decisions. His passes are well off. He looks lazy and not terribly interested. He’s a guy showing that when things get going, he doesn’t.
As far as the goaltending situation goes, maybe Peter Budaj should’ve played. Maybe Michel Therrien, in one surprising hunch to use Toker, ripped the guts out of Budaj. Maybe Budaj would’ve grabbed that Rick Nash shot and the teams gone to intermission tied 1-1.
It’s all hindsight now. It’s also very depressing.
Next game – Thursday in Manhattan. It’s desperate times.