MONTREAL -- The New York Rangers failed to take advantage of their first opportunity to make it to the Stanley Cup Final in 20 years on Tuesday. Fortunately for them, they have two more chances to beat the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final.
New York lost 7-4 to Montreal in Game 5 at Bell Centre, but the Rangers hold a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 is Thursday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Trailing 4-1, New York coach Alain Vigneault pulled goalie Henrik Lundqvist before the midway point of the second period. Cam Talbot made his second relief appearance of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Rangers rallied to tie it 4-4 before Canadiens left wing Rene Bourque scored twice to complete a hat trick and David Desharnais scored into an empty net with 4:17 remaining in the third.
"We made a lot of mistakes and were lucky it was only 2-1 after the first period," Rangers right wing Martin St. Louis said. "We fought hard in the second. That's hockey sometimes. They're a good team on the other side. We had to expect them to come hard, and we struggled to adapt."
The Canadiens opened the scoring at 1:48 when Subban's one-timer from the left point went in off Montreal left wing Alex Galchenyuk. Montreal was 1-for-17 on the power play through the first four games.
"I was just not good enough," Lundqvist said. "It's hard to analyze it this quickly, but it was a combination of a couple of things. We start the game with taking a penalty and it kind of puts us on our heels a little bit. Just bottom line all of us need to be better, starting with me."
Lundqvist, who won the first two games of the series here, was not tagged with the loss despite allowing four goals on 19 shots through 28:58.
"I pulled him because at that time, we needed a momentum shift," Vigneault said. "I thought it would catch everybody's attention. It did for a while, but it didn't work out."
Rangers center Brad Richards said there was plenty of blame for Lundqvist's teammates to share in the loss.
"We have to play smarter than that," Richards said. "You have to give yourself a chance to win, you have to give yourself the odds, but we were playing with fire. From penalties right off the start, we weren't in a five-man unit, and we paid for it."
Rangers defenseman John Moore was assessed a match penalty at 10:41 of the third period for his blindside hit to the head of Montreal's Dale Weiss. Moore will have a hearing Wednesday with the NHL Department of Player Safety.
"The League will do what it has to do," Vigneault said. "It was penalized on the ice. John is definitely not the type of player to try and hurt someone, but it was a late hit, and it was the right call on the ice."
A silver lining for New York was the quick return to action of center Derek Stepan, who scored twice after missing Game 4 because of a broken jaw. Stepan, who wore full-facial protection on his helmet, had a plate inserted during surgery to repair the fracture he sustained on an open-ice check by Canadiens forward Brandon Prust, a late hit that went unpenalized during the game but subsequently saw the Montreal forward receive a two-game suspension.
"[Stepan's] had a tough stretch," said linemate Rick Nash, who scored his third goal of the series 50 seconds after Talbot replaced Lundqvist to begin the Rangers' comeback. "I thought he played a great game. He was solid. Whatever he's been through in the last couple of days, it's pretty impressive that he was right back at it."
The Rangers and Canadiens combined for six goals in the second period on a total of 18 shots, including three by New York on six shots against Montreal goaltender Dustin Tokarski.
"It was a bizarre game," Richards said. "It seemed whoever got the last shot in that second period was going to be up by a goal. Strange period."
Talbot stopped six of eight shots. The rookie backup stopped the five Philadelphia Flyers shots he faced in the third period of a 5-2 loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round.
"We're a good team," Lundqvist said. "And when we play at our best, we're a really good team. We just have to go back to New York and work on a few things. It's going to be exciting and a great challenge for us."