Canadiens' all-hands approach comes just in the nick of time

Alexander Radulov Montreal Canadiens
Alexander Radulov celebrates his overtime winner in the Montreal Canadiens’ Game 2 win over the New York Rangers. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

There’s typically a finger being pointed in Montreal.

Even when things are at their rosiest with the Canadiens, there always seems to be a controversial subplot simmering under the surface, eager to incite at a moment’s notice.

(Why else would Alex Galchenyuk be working out of the fourth line?)

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But on Friday night, when Alexander Radulov was captured by a mob of teammates before reaching the glass he intended to slam into to appropriately celebrate the overtime winner that he fed through the pads of Henrik Lundqvist, there wasn’t much left to quibble over. No one to condemn.

It was an all-hands win in Game 2 of their first-round series with the New York Rangers – even if attaining that desire level meant that the Canadiens’ backs had to be pressed firm against the wall first.

The Canadiens were 18 seconds away from travelling to New York down 2-0, and well on their way to saying sayonara on the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when an unexpected source took his opportunity.

When Shea Weber shoved Michael Grabner down at the line, he kept the puck in the zone for Galchenyuk to scoop up to initiate on last gasp. Galchenyuk snapped the puck quickly down low Radulov, who immediately picked out a target in Tomas Plekanec in front of the net.

Down on his luck all season with 10 goals, his fewest in 11 seasons, the posted-up Plekanec would catch an important break. Rangers defenceman Nick Holden shattered his stick on his eventual shooter just before the pass, creating the space Plekanec needed to get a quality shot off on Lundqvist, who had been standing on his head the entire period.

Plekanec’s rescue was the latest postseason equalizer in franchise history.

At that point it was fate.

After retreating for most of the third period, the Rangers proved unable to restart after a third intermission as the Canadiens controlled the balance of play in overtime, continuing to tilt the ice on Lundqvist.

Ultimately, with 94 seconds left in the first bonus period, Weber moved the puck from the point to the corner for Max Pacioretty, who spotted Radulov in front to cram in a winner that mirrored Plekanec’s equalizer nearly exactly.

It was Montreal’s 58th shot on goal, and the 103rd total attempt.

Long before Montreal’s attacking core started and completed the comeback, there were important depth contributions. Jeff Petry opened the scoring with some brilliant patience set up by a Phillip Danault rush. Then before the first period was up, Brendan Gallagher set up Paul Byron for Montreal’s second goal with some tidy body placement and control.

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And there was Carey Price, the rock, making 35 saves throughout, including eight in overtime to anchor the 4-3 win.

It all unfolded exactly for the Canadiens, who managed to inspire confidence despite narrowly avoiding the potentially fatal blow.

Nothing to nitpick, at least for now.