NEW YORK – Martin St. Louis found another way to lift up his New York Rangers teammates. This time he carried them within one win of the Stanley Cup finals.
What St. Louis lacks in physical size, he compensates with heart. Since he rejoined the club one day after the unexpected death of his mother, without missing a game, St. Louis has provided inspiration on and off the ice.
Now he also is delivering the clutch offense he has always been known for.
St. Louis scored his sixth goal of the playoffs 6:02 into overtime to give the Rangers a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday night.
New York leads the series 3-1 and can advance to the championship round for the first time since claiming the Cup 20 years ago as early as Tuesday night in Montreal. The Rangers won the first two games on the road before losing Game 3 in overtime Thursday night.
“It’s a big difference up 3-1 instead of 2-2 going back to Montreal,” St. Louis said. “We were obviously disappointed with the result last game. We thought we played a good game. That’s just hockey. Tonight we are on a good end, and it’s a big plus.”
A loose puck came to St. Louis, alone in the right circle, and he fired a snap shot over goalie Dustin Tokarski’s shoulder.
“I just got open,” said St. Louis, who has 39 career playoff goals. “I tried to trust my instincts. I hit some good shots, he made some good saves. I was fortunate this one got by him.”
The Rangers won after squandering a pair of one-goal leads.
“I just remember there was a turnover somewhere around the neutral zone. I’m not sure,” Tokarski said. “St. Louis had some time and picked a corner on me. It’s a game of inches, and we came up a bit short.”
Carl Hagelin put the Rangers in front with a short-handed tally in the first period, and Derick Brassard made it 2-1 in the second. Hagelin also assisted on St. Louis’ winner.
Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves and earned his 41st postseason win, tying the franchise record of Mike Richter, who was in attendance. He also earned an assist on Brassard’s goal for his first career postseason point.
“I’m really proud to be out there with those guys, and hopefully can keep it going a little more,” Lundqvist said.
The Rangers are 6-1 since the death of St. Louis’ mother galvanized the team. St. Louis was acquired from Tampa Bay at the March trade deadline for former captain Ryan Callahan.
“He has been great for us ever since he got here,” said Hagelin, who also scored his sixth goal. “He shows a lot of tenacity and emotion every time he steps on the ice.”
Francis Bouillon tied it for Montreal in the second, and fellow defenseman P.K. Subban made it 2-2 in the third with a power-play goal. David Desharnais assisted on both for Montreal. Tokarski stopped 26 shots for the Canadiens, who went 1 for 8 on the power play.
“By no means are we counting ourselves out,” Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. “It’s a tough loss, it’s a bitter loss, but at the end of the day we are still in this series. I still like our chances with two games at home.”