A little slower, less physical, but decisively fresher in overtime.
The New York Rangers found their motor after the regulation whistle sounded in Game 5 versus the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, earning a critical edge in their razor-close first-round series with a 3-2 triumph on Mika Zibanejad’s overtime winner.
New York was rapidly erasing its shot-attempt discrepancy in bonus time at the Bell Centre before Chris Kreider’s centering attempt on a seemingly harmless rush changed its path off the stick of Alexei Emelin and found Zibanejad, who was further fortunate to have Carey Price at his mercy.
Montreal’s superb netminder had stopped 63 of the previous 64 shots placed on target in action in the third period and beyond in the series before Zibanejad snuck behind Jordie Benn and beat the Canadiens netminder to the far post.
It was the second straight loss in the series, as well as consecutive defeat at home for Montreal, which now must upend the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday to force a Game 7.
The perpetual heat on Max Pacioretty will remain, as the Canadiens’ captain was once again held off the scoresheet and is stuck on just a single assist for the series. Pacioretty had a glorious chance to re-establish the lead Montreal had coughed up with a breakaway opportunity with a little over seven minutes left in regulation, but his quick snap shot was coolly kicked aside by Henrik Lundqvist, who padded his impressive opening-round stats with another 34 saves.
Lundqvist has appeared vulnerable at times, but has ultimately allowed only 10 goals on 178 shots in the series for a superior .944 save rate.
He also has five wins in his last seven overtime sessions in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Artturi Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher scored the only two Canadiens goals in the first period.
Jesper Fast and Brady Skjei also counted for New York.
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