Tom Mihalek/Associated Press
The New York Rangers finally won a game on their home ice, and now they go back north of the border with a chance to take the lead in their series against the Montreal Canadiens.
The series between the two Original 6 teams is tied at 2-2, and the Rangers rebounded nicely in Game 4 with a 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden. New York had lost its previous six home playoff games.
The Rangers won the series opener at the Bell Center and were seconds away from a 2-0 lead there until Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec tied the game and Alexander Radulov won it in the extra period.
The pivotal fifth game will feature the Rangers’ speed and agility against the Canadiens’ strong defensive game and ability to counter New York’s offensive thrusts. Here’s a look at the full first-round schedule.
While both teams have premier-level goaltending, the presence of Carey Price gives Montreal a slight edge over Henrik Lundqvist. The Habs don’t leave a lot of openings in the neutral zone or their own zone, and any misplay by the Rangers can lead to a Montreal counterattack.
|Thursday night’s NHL playoff schedule|
|New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens||Series tied, 2-2||7 p.m.||USA||Montreal|
|Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins||Pittsburgh, 3-1||7 p.m.||NHL Network||Pittsburgh|
|Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators||Nashville, 3-0||8 p.m.||NBCSN||Nashville|
|San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers||Series tied, 2-2||10:30 p.m.||NBCSN||Edmonton|
|NHL.com; Silverman predictions|
The Habs need their top scorer Max Pacioretty to have an impact as the series moves to its crucial stage. His ability to fire a wicked wrist shot and get it away in a split second is Montreal’s biggest threat, but he has been held to one assist in the first four games of the series.
Head coach Claude Julien has shaken up his lines in an attempt to improve the goal scoring, and Pacioretty explained the move. “Trying to get sparks going,” Pacioretty told Stu Cowan of the National Post. “I think you’re looking a little bit too much into it.”
If Pacioretty can get loose early in the game and score a goal in the first period, it could give the Canadiens a jolt of energy. The longer the game goes without either team scoring, the greater the pressure will be on the home team. Their demanding fans want to see their team take charge, and while they are supportive, they can also turn their home arena into a pressure cooker.
The Western Conference series between the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks is tied at 2-2, after San Jose came through with a remarkable effort in their Game 4, 7-0 victory. The Sharks had been shut out in their two previous games, but Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski scored two goals each to lead the effort.
Don’t think for a second that the Oilers will be shaken by the loss. They are returning home and have arguably been the better team in three of the first four games, and they have one of the game’s most explosive…