Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final was playoff hockey lunacy.
The best goalie in the playoffs chased from the game, and then his team rallying with three goals in 4 minutes and 24 seconds. A player with one goal in last 10 playoff games tallying a hat trick. A diving call, independent of a defensive penalty. A five-minute major called on, perhaps, the dumbest hit of the playoffs.
Game 6 of the series is Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Montreal trails in the series, 3-2.
Rene Bourque tallied a hat trick for the Canadiens, including two goals that reestablished Montreal’s momentum after the Rangers staged a furious rally in the second period.
The rally was sparked by the benching of goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who entered the game leading the playoffs in both goals against average and save percentage for the playoffs. But he gave up four goals on 19 shots in 28:58, giving way to backup goalie Cam Talbot in the second period.
After Lundqvist left, the Rangers erased a 4-1 lead for Montreal with goals by Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider over a 4:24 span. It appeared the Rangers were back on track to eliminate the Canadiens … and then Bourque struck again:
At 6:33 of the third period, it was Bourque again to give the Canadiens valuable breathing room:
The hats flew from the Bell Centre stands, causing a not insignificant delay. David Desharnais tallied an empty netter that sealed the victory at 15:43.
The game was, by far, the most contentious of the conference final. The teams combined for 18 minor penalties, and one major one, as Rangers defenseman John Moore delivered a head shot on Dale Weise of the Canadiens at 10:41 of the third period, with the Rangers down by two goals.
It cost the Rangers valuable time killing the penalty, and will likely cost Moore some time off the ice when the NHL reviews it.
The Canadiens were shamed by the officials as well, as Tomas Plekanec was given a penalty for diving after his blatant embellishment wasn’t whistled in Game 4.
Illegalities aside, the game was the highest-scoring contest of the 2014 playoffs. Chris Kreider had a 4-point night for the Rangers, with a goal and three assists. Stepan, back after missing a game with a jaw injury, scored two goals. Andrei Markov had three assists, while Alex Galchenyuk, P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty had the other Canadiens goals.
Goalie Dustin Tokarski wasn’t perfect, giving up a couple of soft goals, but hung in to make 22 save on 26 shots.
It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t one for the time capsule. But it was the epitome of playoff hockey: Intense, chaotic, unpredictable and, in the end, a moment of survival for the Canadiens.