Mika Zibanejad’s tap in at 14:22 of the first overtime period lifted the Rangers to a 3-2 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre and a 3-2 series lead:
The Rangers are adopting the moniker of comeback kids this series as they overcame a pair of one-goal deficits to force overtime.
“We had a lot of good chances and I think it was the opposite way around last time we were here in overtime [during Game 2]. They had some momentum coming in and they were pretty much all over us,” Zibanejad said. “I think it was the other way around today. It felt like it was our turn to get rewarded.”
This is the eighth time in franchise history that the Rangers have turned a 2-1 series deficit into a 3-2 series lead.
That last time that happened was also in the first round of the playoffs in 1996 against, who else, the Canadiens.
Artturi Lehkonen put the Canadiens on the board first on Thursday night at 12:07 with a rare wraparound effort that beat Lundqvist, who was slow to cover his left post.
During the regular season, Lundqvist had allowed just one goal on 74 wraparound attempts, which made Lehkonen’s tally so surprising.
Jesper Fast continued to prove that New York’s bottom-six forwards have been some of their best this series when he was able to convert a shorthanded chance less than four minutes after Lehkonen’s opener.
Zibanejad got created the chance after picking off an Alex Galchenyuk pass in the Rangers zone. Streaking down the left with Fast, Zibanejad meandered toward the center of the Montreal zone while his companion rushed toward the net.
Thursday night’s hero fed glass right in front of goal and he managed to slot a diving wrister past Carey Price.
Montreal punched right back 26 seconds later when Brandon Gallagher snapped a wrister past Henrik Lundqvist, who was heavily screened by Tomas Plekanec.
The goalies took over from there as Price and Lundqvist continued their mammoth duel from their creases.
Both netminders faced 36 shots on the night with Lundqvist narrowly coming out on top with 34 saves.
With 1:32 left in the second period, Rick Nash drove hard to Price’s net and stuffed a shot off the goalie’s pads. But the rebound came out to an onrushing Brady Skjei, who deposited his second goal of the series to knot things up.
New York fed off the momentum gained from that late goal and imposed their will on Montreal, although they couldn’t find a way to beat Price in regulation or for most of overtime.
In the extra period, the Rangers outshot the Canadiens 10-3 and created plenty of chances before Montreal’s stalwart finally broke.
With their first lead of the series since taking Game 1, the Rangers will return home to Madison Square Garden for a Saturday night clash at 8 p.m. ET with a chance to advance in front of their home crowd.