MONTREAL - Tomas Plekanec and Alexander Radulov wanted to remind Canadiens fans that it ain't over til it's over. And how.
Plekanec netted the game-tying goal with under 18 seconds remaining in regulation to send Game 2 into overtime, breaking a team record in the process. The Czech forward's tally was the latest a Canadiens player had ever tied a game in the playoffs - six seconds closer to the end than Jacques Lemaire's equalizer in Game 1 of the 1975 semifinals - solidifying the belief on the Montreal bench that anything can happen if you don't give up.
"As you could see in the third period, I thought we played desperate. Every single guy played hard, played to get that goal," recounted Plekanec, who also added an assist on Paul Byron's marker in the first period. "I felt it on the bench, and I think every guy did, that we were going to get that goal, and that's what happened."
Video: Radulov's OT goal lifts Habs past Rangers in Game 2
Radulov, meanwhile, made up for two second-period penalties by setting up Plekanec's first of the postseason, thereby setting the stage for his eventual game-winner.
"I wanted to get it in front of the net, hoping it would be redirected by a stick, a skate, something. There were only 20 seconds left. Pleky did a good job in front of the net to redirect the puck," recalled Radulov of the thrilling third-period goal.
The energetic Russian forward later sent the Bell Centre into a tizzy when he potted the winner with 1:26 to play in the extra frame. The Habs faithful erupted into a deafening chant of "Radu! Radu! Radu!" when his name was called as the game's first star shortly after the puck crossed the goal line.
Canadiens head coach Claude Julien was pleased that Radulov made up for his mistakes and played a big part in a big win.
"When a player redeems himself that way, it shows his character and his will to win," he relayed.
Byron echoed his linemate Plekanec's sentiments about the Canadiens' persistence, praising his teammates for maintaining their confidence and composure.
"I don't think anything changed. We definitely had the momentum for a while, and our guys just stayed with it. They had so much confidence in the third period. No one folded, no one was getting frustrated, we just stayed with it. The line at the end did an unbelievable job of finding Pleky in front of the net. That goal was huge for us," said Byron, who again led his teammates in hits on the night, this time recording eight of them.
The Canadiens once again gave Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist a run for his money, firing a whopping 58 shots at the veteran netminder. Montreal's shot count was only five shy of the club playoff record, set in 1967 against Toronto.
Video: NYR@MTL, Gm2: Plekanec ties game with late tip-in
As for Plekanec, Julien had plenty of compliments for the 34-year-old, reminding reporters of the veteran's diverse skill set and versatility.
"As far as his teammates are concerned, they see him [making] all the sacrifices of playing against the top lines on most nights, and most shifts, and he's doing a really good job of shutting them down. Sometimes, it's not the most fun job, it's not the job you enjoy the most, but he takes pride in it, and he does it well. For him to be rewarded like that, it's well deserved. I'm sure his teammates thought the same."
With the series now tied at one game apiece and the teams headed to New York to resume hostilities on Sunday, the Habs bench boss hopes the lesson about resilience learned in Game 2 will stick with his troops the next time they face any kind of adversity.
"It was more of a character win tonight. We stuck with it, we didn't panic. We just stayed the course right until the end, until the tying goal, and we came out in overtime with a goal."
Video: NYR@MTL, Gm2: Radulov stuffs home OT winner