NEW YORK -- Robert Lang
had the hat trick of hat tricks on Wednesday night.
Not only did the Montreal Canadiens
forward score all three of his goals in the third period to lead his team to a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers
at Madison Square Garden, but one came at even strength, one came on the power play, and the last came shorthanded.
"You have to kind of challenge yourself that way," joked Lang, who now has 15 goals this season. "Sometimes, it bounces your way. I'm very happy about it."
It was Lang's second career hat trick. The other came on Nov. 12, 2003, with Washington.
"If I keep on this pace I probably won't score another one, so I will enjoy this one," Lang said.
Forty minutes into the game, one would have never guessed the Canadiens were going to beat Henrik Lundqvist
three times in the final 20 en route to a four-goal third period. Lang's shorthanded tally was fired into an empty net.
But the Rangers ran into penalty trouble early in the third period, as Aaron Voros
and Ryan Callahan
were sent off 68 seconds apart. Andrei Markov
scored just three seconds after the hooking call on Voros to break a 2-2 tie. After a holding the stick penalty on Scott Gomez
gave Montreal a two-man advantage, Lang beat Henrik Lundqvist
at 4:40 for his first goal of the night to give Montreal a 4-2 lead.
The Blueshirts entered Wednesday's action boasting the League's best penalty-killing unit (88.4 percent).
"We lost control of it because we thought we were not getting calls that we should have," said Rangers coach Tom Renney, whose team remained tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with Philadelphia. "It's tough not playing the game, never mind not refereeing it, too. I think we got off track with emotions of not getting what we deserve in terms of calls."
The power-play outburst was a rarity for the Canadiens this season. They led the NHL in power-play percentage in each of the last two seasons, but haven't played well with the man advantage so for in 2008-09. Markov's goal ended an 0-for-20 drought.
"We've been able to get points and wins since the start of the year without having a really good power play," coach Guy Carbonneau
said. "We've worked on being a better defensive team, and that's helped us a lot."
Early on, there were no calls to be found on either side. The first penalty of the game was made more than midway through the second period, when Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival
went off for hooking.
Montreal needed only 3:05 to get on the scoreboard, as Alex Kovalev
scored his 10th goal of the season. After Lundqvist mistakenly left the puck behind the net for Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty
, the latter fed Kovalev in front for a one-timer to make it 1-0.
New York evened the score with just 2:38 left in the opening period on Chris Drury
's 12th goal of the season. With the teams at even strength, Drury sent a pass from the right circle towards the net that went off a Montreal skate and past goalie Jaroslav Halak
. The goal was originally credited to Wade Redden
before being changed during the first intermission.
"When you pick up the paper and see the score, it's hard to believe (it was 6-3)," Drury said. "I think we played a pretty solid game in a lot of areas. No need to beat up ourselves too bad."
The Canadiens regained the lead before the period concluded, as Guillaume Latendresse
made it 2-1 at 18:53. Roman Hamrlik
fired a slap shot from center ice that Lundqvist easily denied, but the Rangers goalie left a juicy rebound in front for Latendresse, who ripped home a slap shot from his sixth goal of the season.
"You can't expect to win when I let in five goals," said Lundqvist, who faced only 25 shots. "I try to play better than that. There were a couple of tough ones, but especially the first one, I can't give away the puck like that. I didn't play really bad, but I definitely need to play better."
Callahan scored the lone goal of the second period, which came at 9:05. After the Rangers gained control of the puck in the neutral zone, Gomez skated over the blue line and sent a cross-ice feed to Callahan, who ripped a one-timer past Halak to make it 2-2. It was Callahan's 12th goal of the season.
Halak preserved the tie less than two minutes later when he denied Drury on a breakaway. The Rangers' captain stole the puck at center ice and cruised in alone on Halak, but the latter was able to get his glove on Drury's wrister. The Rangers outshot Montreal 12-8 in the second period.
"After I gave up the bad goal, I wanted to make a big save after," said Halak, who finished with 36 saves. "He just shot it on me. That was a key (save). I'm very happy with the way we played tonight."
Halak was especially happy with his performance. Playing in place of the injured Carey Price
, he allowed five goals in a 6-5 shootout win against the Florida Panthers
on Sunday after playing poorly in a 4-1 loss at New Jersey two nights earlier. On Wednesday, he redeemed himself in a big way on a big stage.
"It's been kind of a hit and miss the last four or five games. It's always nice to get a couple of breaks. You don't get to shoot on a goalie when they're out of place very often. When they are, it's kind of nice." -- Montreal forward Robert Lang
"I don't think about what's happened in the past," Halak said. "I cannot change anything about it. There's always next game. I'm happy we got the two points tonight."
Carbonneau was happy to see his goaltender bounce back.
"He was battling all night," Carbonneau said. "He got lucky a couple of times, but for him, to be able to come back tonight and get a win, that's big for him. The last two or three games, he's been up and down, so there was a lot of pressure on him to play well tonight."
Markov broke the 2-2 tie at 2:32 of the third, as he collected the puck after a faceoff win in the Rangers' zone and fired a perfect wrist shot that zipped past Lundqvist and sent the water bottle flying off the top of the top of the net for his sixth goal of the season. Lang extended Montreal's lead when he grabbed Andrei Kostitsyn
's rebound off the end boards and tapped it past Lundqvist for his first tally of the night and Montreal's second power-play goal in a span of 2:08.
"It's been kind of a hit and miss the last four or five games," Lang said of Montreal's power play. "It's always nice to get a couple of breaks. You don't get to shoot on a goalie when they're out of place very often. When they are, it's kind of nice."
Rozsival got the Rangers back within a goal just two minutes later, but Lang made it a 5-3 game with 4:31 remaining. With the teams at even strength, Lang carried the puck into the Rangers' zone, made a nifty move around defenseman Marc Staal
and then roofed a shot over Lundqvist for a highlight-reel tally. Lang then iced the victory with a shorthanded, empty-net goal at 19:23.
"In his defense, it was at the end of the shift," Lang said of Staal. "I don't think he expected that. He probably was hoping for a dump more than anything else. He kind of let up, and I just moved to the middle and finished it off."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.