This was one for the ages.
In front of a frenzied crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre, the Montreal Canadiens
rallied from five goals down on Tuesday night to beat the New York Rangers
6-5 in a shootout in the greatest comeback in the history of the storied franchise.
– who relieved Carey Price
after Brendan Shanahan
gave the Blueshirts a 3-0 lead – stopped Shanahan, Chris Drury
and Jaromir Jagr
in the shootout to help give the Habs an improbable victory that helped them keep pace with the Ottawa Senators
for the Eastern Conference lead.
''I don't think a lot of people expected it,'' said Michael Ryder
, who scored the first two of four straight even-strength goals by Montreal.
The Canadiens completed the comeback when former Ranger Alex Kovalev
beat a shell-shocked Henrik Lundqvist
on a one-timer that forced Kovalev to lose his balance. His team-leading 29th goal of the season came with just 4:22 remaining in the third period.
''When I was laying down, I could see that there was nobody sitting,'' Kovalev said. ''It's unbelievable. The fans have always been great to me. It definitely makes you give more back and I'm trying to play as hard as I can for them. A game like this, we just had to keep playing and you never know what will happen.''
Things were looking good for the Blueshirts for the better part of the first two periods. Jagr became the 10th leading scorer in NHL history thanks to four assists. Shanahan found the back of the net twice to reach the 20-goal plateau for the 19th consecutive season.
"It's not every day you blow a five-goal lead," Shanahan said. "But we got one point and we're not going to make any more of it than that."
New York jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period thanks to goals from Brandon Dubinsky and Sean Avery that came only 14 seconds apart. Drury gave the Rangers a 5-0 lead in the second – just 28 seconds after Shanahan had tallied his second goal of the night.
And then things began to unravel. Ryder made it a 5-1 game with his 10th goal of the season at 8:28 of the second, then beat Lundqvist again at 12:52.
''We got caught on our heels and allowed them back into the hockey game,'' Rangers coach Tom Renney said. ''I give the Montreal fans a ton of credit. That's what you're supposed to do, you're behind your team and they did a great job of that and this hockey team, which is very dangerous, certainly fed off of that and took what we gave them.''
No question, the Canadiens were feeding off one of the loudest crowds in recent memory. From the moment Kovalev scored his first goal of the night – which came 6:43 into the third and cut the deficit to 5-3 – the capacity crowd took over. Between the Canadiens buzzing and the crowd in a frenzy, the Rangers were simply overmatched.
Ryder appeared to have notched a hat trick just nine seconds after Kovalev’s first tally, but replays showed that his wrist shot from the slot hit the back of Mark Streit’s leg before going past Lundqvist.
In the shootout, Canadiens captain Saku Koivu was the only skater to find the back of the net. He made a nifty move that forced Lundqvist to go to his left, but Koivu cut back and slid the puck into the open net, culminating the greatest comeback in Montreal history.
"What a great effort, what a great feeling at the end," Habs defenseman Mike Komisarek said.
"My ears are still ringing from that crowd."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.