CANADIENS at RANGERS
(New York leads best-of-7 series 3-2)
TV: NBCSN, CBC, RDS
Big story: The New York Rangers will try to put a wild Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens behind them and earn that elusive fourth win of the series to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.
They'll first need to learn from their mistakes. Up 3-1 in the best-of-7 series entering Game 5 in Montreal on Tuesday, the Rangers had an excellent opportunity to advance and earn some much-needed time off before the Stanley Cup Final. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was pulled midway through the second period after allowing four goals on 19 shots as Montreal built a 4-1 lead.
The change in net keyed a comeback by the Rangers, who scored three times in 4:24 to tie the game before allowing the next three goals in a 7-4 loss. By the time they met with the media Wednesday, the Rangers had moved on from the back-and-forth loss and were focused on finishing off the Canadiens in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden.
"You have to have a short-term memory in the playoffs," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "The great thing about this game is we're able to come back [Thursday] and be able to right the ship and forget about everything. That's what we're going to have to do, kind of forget about that one, travel home [Wednesday] and come ready [Thursday] morning for a good skate."
Canadiens: With Montreal looking to avoid elimination one more time and force Game 7, the talk revolved around forward Rene Bourque, who scored his first career playoff hat trick in Game 5 after going the previous 10 games with one goal.
"In the end of the regular season, we saw Rene engaged in the game a lot more, moving his feet, being physical, going hard to the net," coach Michel Therrien said Wednesday. "He's doing a lot of good things. You can't expect a player to score three goals every night, or even score every game. But even when he doesn't score, he's playing solid hockey. He's getting involved physically. And [in Game 5], for me, it was leadership. It was a huge game for us."
Perhaps most important, the Canadiens' power play, which went 1-for-8 in Game 4, seemed rejuvenated at Bell Centre, going 1-for-4 with seven shots on goal in Game 5.
Forward Dale Weise, who left Game 5 briefly in the third period after being hit in the head by Rangers defenseman John Moore, did not take part in the morning skate Thursday and won't play. Moore was suspended two games following a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety for the hit Wednesday.
Rangers: New York did not skate Wednesday. Players and coaches alike were dismissive of the idea that the Rangers were beginning to tire heading into what will be their 20th game of the postseason, compared to 17 for the Canadiens.
"It's an opportunity to win the game to go to the Stanley Cup Final," forward Brad Richards said. "I think everybody is alert and ready that way. We were talking about it all day, how excited we were to get on the ice and start playing. Obviously we had some mental breakdowns, but I don't think it had anything to do with that, no matter how much we played. We've had a lot of rest this series, and the opportunity that faces us right now, we're pretty excited about it."
The Rangers would prefer to close the series in Game 6 rather than return to Montreal for Game 7 on Saturday. However, the Rangers have not won a series in fewer than seven games since beating the New Jersey Devils in five games in the first round of the 2008 playoffs.
Who's hot: Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk has two goals and three points in the past three games. Defenseman Andrei Markov has a goal and four assists during his three-game point streak, and Bourque has five points during his three-game point streak. … Rangers center Derek Stepan returned from a broken jaw and scored twice in Game 5, giving him nine points during his six-game point streak, which is a career playoff best. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh has nine points in the series, and forward Chris Kreider has eight.
Injury report: Rangers forward J.T. Miller remains out with an upper-body injury. … Montreal goaltender Carey Price skated in full equipment Wednesday, but Therrien insists he is out for the series. Defenseman Alexei Emelin missed Game 5 with an undisclosed injury but traveled with the Canadiens to New York. Emelin is a game-time decision. Weise's injury is unspecified.