NEW YORK, N.Y. – The Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers move their first-round series to Madison Square Garden Sunday night for Game 3. It’s a series that could have been shifting to the Big Apple with the Blueshirts up 2-0, if not for a tying goal by Tomas Plekanec with 17.3 seconds left, which led to Alex Radulov’s overtime winner.
The feeling from the emotional ending to Game 2 can linger for both sides. The Canadiens enter with confidence, still riding the high of their comeback win that evened the series. You wouldn’t blame the Rangers for still trying to explain to themselves how they were seconds away from being halfway to the second round.
But nearly 48 hours will have passed when the puck drops for Game 3. That’s lot of time to overthink and overanalyze a game that was deflating and elating, depending on which side of the ice you were on. But even with the loss, the Rangers feel confident in their play through two games.
“The good thing is that we play every other day so we don’t have a whole lot of time to sit around thinking about it,” said Rangers forward J.T. Miller. “I think we’re happy with the way we’ve played. I think we can still take it to another level offensively here in this game.”
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said his players have turned the page and are focused and ready for what the Canadiens will bring in Game 3. But his captain had a different perspective.
“I think you’ve got to kind of keep it in the back of your mind and remember what you did or didn’t do,” said Ryan McDonagh. “We allowed them to carry the puck in and dump it in and spend a lot of time in our zone. You’ve got to learn from that and understand the importance of working hard to get your gap back, working hard when you don’t have the puck. All those little things will add up to us hoping to have more success.”
Those lapses McDonagh mentioned were certainly brought up in video sessions since Friday night. It’s only two games and the series is tied 1-1, so there’s plenty of time for clean up.
But what about the other side? Do the Canadiens ride the elation of such a victory? Or, like the Rangers want to do, do they park it and clean the slate for the next game?
“There’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs,” said Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher. “You’ve got just to handle them in stride. You enjoy it for a couple of hours. You leave the rink, you can dwell on it a little bit whether you lost or won and then you wake up the next day and it’s on to the next game. I don’t think there’s too much time to really feel too good about yourself or feel sorry about yourself this time of year. It’s a day-to-day mentality and the task tonight is coming here and Game 3, find a way to win this hockey game.”
For veterans like Gallagher who have been through many of the ups and downs a hockey season provides for a team, they’re experienced in this sort of thing, especially in the postseason. But for younger players it’s a learning experience, and even for older guys like Gallagher – with 324 regular season and 36 playoff games under his belt – it’s not always an easy thing to do.
“It is and it isn’t. You always remember, but we’ve done it so much that you’re just kind of used to it,” he said. “It’s part of the business — whether you have a big win or a tough loss you’re able to move on and focus on the next one because once the puck drops I don’t think the last game is on anyone’s mind.”
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