MONTREAL â€” The Montreal Canadiens looked to be in serious trouble until Tomas Plekanec gave them new life with a game-tying goal with 18 seconds left in regulation time.
And when Alexander Radulov scored 18:34 into overtime, it gave a whole new look to their NHL playoff series with the New York Rangers.
Instead of heading to New York trailing by two games, the Canadiens won 4-3 on Friday night to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final 1-1 with Game 3 set for Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
“Every time you win you kind of change the momentum,” said Plekanec. “You feel better about yourself and your game.
“But it’s just one game. We have to get better because we haven’t played a great game yet.”
Plekanec was put out for the final shift of the third period, with goalie Carey Price pulled for an extra attacker, because coach Claude Julien felt it was important to get the puck right away. Plekanec had a 63 per cent win rate on faceoffs in the game.
The veteran ended up redirecting a Radulov feed past Henrik Lundqvist to send the Bell Centre crowd of 21,288 into a frenzy.
Then Radulov, with his third point of the night, jammed the puck under Lundqvist from the edge of the crease in OT.
For a team that couldn’t buy a goal in a 2-0 loss in the series opener, finally getting some offence was huge.
“I sat here and had to answer questions I felt we didn’t deserve (after Game 1) and it gave is a little chip on our shoulder,” said captain Max Pacioretty. “Obviously we didn’t want to go down 2-0 going on the road, but every shift you have a chance to make a difference in a game and everyone had that same mindset.
“The coach came in here after two and after three and just said the right things to everybody. It was such a good feeling to see everyone stop what they were doing and be completely still and listen to what the coach had to say. Everyone just bought in so well and it showed in our game and our resilience.”
Jeff Petry and Paul Byron also scored for the Canadiens, who outshot New York 45-30 in regulation time and 58-38 overall.
The Rangers looked to be protecting their lead in the third period, when they were outshot 18-9, and gave up most of the scoring chances in OT, including a Shea Weber shot that clanged off a goalpost.
“It was a good game,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “Both teams battled hard and got some looks.
“Both teams’ goalies made some good saves.”
Asked if losing the lead and the game may affect his team, Vigneault said: “When the puck drops on Sunday, we won’t remember that.”
Michael Grabner, Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash scored for the Rangers as they fought back from early 1-0 and 2-1 deficits.
Only 4:05 in, Lundqvist broke his stick and was helpless as Petry set up in the right circle and scored stick side.
Lundqvist answered by stopping Byron on a breakaway, and then Nathan Beaulieu lost the puck at the Rangers blue line, allowing Grabner to go in alone and deke Price and score with the backhand at 13:48.
Byron scored at 15:42 when Chris Kreider lost the puck to Brendan Gallagher, who followed in after his shot was stopped to feed it in front.
A melee broke out when Steve Ott flattened Zuccarello and it was the Rangers who seemed to get a lift from it as they tied the score 9:58 into the second. With Montreal on a slow line change, Jimmy Vesey took a pass at the blue line and sent Nash in alone for a perfect shot in off the far post.
New York went ahead at 14:47 when Brendan Smith banked a shot in off Zuccarello from the left point.
According to the NHL, Plekanec’s tally was the latest playoff game-tying goal in Canadiens history, beating a Jacques Lemaire goal in 1975 with 24 seconds remaining.
With 54 saves, Lundqvist bested his previous playoff high of 49.
Neither team made lineup changes from the series opener.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press