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Rangers forward St. Louis is playoff hero again

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- In an illustrious NHL career filled with a number of historic victories and memorable moments, New York Rangers forward Martin St. Louis has played the hero countless times.

He was more than happy to do it again Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.

St. Louis' goal 6:02 into overtime gave the Rangers a 3-2 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final. New York leads the best-of-7 series 3-1 and is one win from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.

Left all alone by the right faceoff circle, the veteran wing demonstrated the patience that comes with 15 seasons worth of NHL experience. Rather than frantically one-timing the puck on net, he took his time before wiring a shot over the left shoulder of Montreal goaltender Dustin Tokarski.

As the capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden erupted, St. Louis added one more moment to a career that includes a Stanley Cup victory, an Olympic gold medal and a Hart Trophy.

"These are the times that you play as a kid in the street and you picture this. Everybody wants to be the guy. There's no bad shot on net at that stage of the game," St. Louis said. "It was pretty cool. Everything kind of happened really quick. You hear the [puck hitting the] bar sound and it's in the net and everybody rushes you. It's a great feeling."

In scoring his first playoff overtime winner since Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, St. Louis went to the favored shot in his considerable hockey repertoire. He's practiced that top-corner laser hundreds of times through the years. It's the same shot Tokarski stopped with an impressive glove save with 3:10 remaining in the second period and a delayed penalty about to be called on Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban.

Given plenty of time and space in overtime, St. Louis went back to that shot.

"The goal he scored tonight is exactly what you see him practicing every time he's on the ice," New York coach Alain Vigneault said. "Trying to put it right there. He made a great shot on that goal."

With one more win, the Rangers can extend a playoff run that has been equal parts triumphant and tragic for St. Louis.

Grieving the sudden passing of his mother, France, who died of a heart attack on May 8, St. Louis helped the Rangers come back from a 3-1 second-round series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins. During that comeback, St. Louis brought the MSG crowd to its feet when he scored the opening goal in Game 6.

That special goal marked the beginning of what is now a six-game point streak for St. Louis. The run ties his playoff high and includes three goals and two assists against the Canadiens.

Since arriving prior to the NHL Trade Deadline from the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 38-year-old has been embraced by his teammates, who attended his mother's funeral in Montreal on May 18. When he scored in overtime Sunday, each of those teammates was thrilled to see St. Louis get one more chance to be the hero.

"Since we got him at the trade deadline, he's been a special person and a special player for our dressing room. I think that's why we got him. Every day he keeps working hard and trying to get better. I'm just happy for him," said Rangers forward Derick Brassard, who admired St. Louis as a teenager growing up in Quebec. "He's a special player. I'm learning a lot of things watching him every day. If you look at our practice, he's shooting so many pucks. I'm not really surprised he scored tonight."

Ten years removed from his only trip to the Stanley Cup Final, a seven-game win against the Calgary Flames, St. Louis is leading the charge to bring the Stanley Cup to New York for the first time in 20 years. With the game on his stick Sunday, he added one more chapter to an already historic career.

"You get this far and you've got to trust yourself. That's what I try to do," St. Louis said. "I shoot the puck there quite a bit. I'm trying to trust what I see. I was fortunate. I got it by him."

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