NEW YORK -- It was an opportunity the New York Rangers were happy to have in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens: They were in overtime, at home, with a chance to move within one win of a series sweep.
But the Rangers skated off as frustrated losers after a favorable bounce off the arm of Alex Galchenyuk and a standout performance by rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski gave Montreal a 3-2 win and new life in the series.
The best-of-7 series resumes Sunday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). But instead of having a chance to sweep the Canadiens and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994, the Rangers need a victory to avoid letting the Canadiens regain the home-ice advantage that New York grabbed by winning the first two games in Montreal, outscoring the Canadiens 10-3.
New York outshot Montreal 37-25 and carried the play for most of the night. But Galchenyuk's goal 72 seconds into overtime left the disappointed Rangers feeling they'd deserved better.
"They worked hard and got a couple of lucky bounces," said forward Carl Hagelin, who opened the scoring 15:18 into the game. "Last game they may have been the better team and we won. Tonight we were the better team and they won."
After struggling out of the gate in the previous two games, the Rangers put together their best opening period of the series, outshooting the Canadiens 14-4, dominating possession and taking a 1-0 lead on Hagelin's goal. But they found themselves tied 1-1 late in the third period despite controlling play for most of the night because Tokarski denied New York on a number of open looks and quality scoring chances.
That's when they Canadiens got a couple of fortunate bounces.
Daniel Briere's go-ahead goal with 3:02 left in regulation was particularly tough. After a dominant game on the blue line, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh inadvertently kicked the puck into his own net after a shot from the right side by Montreal forward Thomas Vanek missed wide, hit the end boards, came out the other side and was deflected by Briere.
"It's a tough bounce but I like the way we kept going and found a way to tie the game," McDonagh said. "Ultimately it doesn't mean anything when you come out losing like that in overtime. It's tough right now."
New York benefited from a good bounce of its own with 29 seconds remaining when Dan Girardi's centering pass hit Chris Kreider and went off Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin's skate into the net to tie the game.
But the Canadiens got another fortunate bounce when Tomas Plekanec's shot hit Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, popped into the air, hit Galchenyuk's arm as the rookie forward crashed the net and deflected over the goal line.
"Obviously we came back," Lundqvist said, "then it's just tough luck on that goal."
Many of the Rangers were also frustrated by an early non-call against Montreal forward Brandon Prust, who hit Derek Stepan high 2:48 into the game. Stepan lay on the ice following the hit, which took place away from the puck. Stepan went directly to the dressing room but was back in a few minutes. Prust was not penalized for the hit, but will have a phone hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday afternoon.
"I never saw him. Not from the time I got the puck to the time I moved it. I even got some strides in before I got hit and I still never saw him," Stepan said. "The main focus is my head. It's the shoulder and there's a lunge there. We can pick it apart all we want, but at the end of the day we've got bigger things on our plate."
The incident could wind up costing the Rangers the services of fourth-line forward Daniel Carcillo. He was assessed a game misconduct for pushing linesman Scott Driscoll while being escorted to the penalty box after being called for charging Prust. The incident came while linemate Derek Dorsett tussled with Prust.
Carcillo could receive supplementary discipline for the incident.
With their series lead cut in half, the Rangers' objective is to move beyond a frustrating evening and prepare for Game 4.
"We'll be pretty focused. We've had some good bounces go our way and this time it didn't go our way," McDonagh said. "I think guys will have a tough time saying they didn't do enough here today."