The Montreal Canadiens needed all hands-on-deck on Tuesday night if they wanted to live another day in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and avoid a Game 5 elimination at the hands of the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre. In front of over 21,000 fans in Montreal, they got just that.
Six members of the Canadiens recorded multi-point games, including Rene Bourque’s game-determining hat trick, as the Habs chased Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist to the bench in favor of backup netminder, Cam Talbot who would absorb the wonky 7-4 loss as the Canadiens fought off elimination and forced the series to Game 6. .
After surrendering a 4-1 lead over the Rangers in under five minutes of play in the second, Bourque netted his second of the night to re-gain the lead before the middle period expired. He picked up where he left off in the third period, completing his three-game performance at 6:33 of the final frame to give the Canadiens an insurance goal, wristing one by Cam Talbot to make it 6-4.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bourque became the first Canadien player to record a hat trick in a game where the team faced elimination since the 1945 Semifinals. Down 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marice Richard potted four goals to help lead his team to a 10-3 victory. The Maple Leafs would eventually go on to win the series, 4-2.
He’s also the first player to score three goals in the Conference Finals (or semifinals) since Guy Lafleur did so in Game 3 against the Sabres in 1975.
Bourque, 32, is now one-goal shy of matching his regular season total and finds himself second in the league this postseason with eight goals.
“He loves this time of year,” Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher said of his teammate. “ He comes out and he’s a competitor. He’s enjoying the opportunity we have. And he’s a leader. He’s leading by example out there to score not only three goals, but very timely goals. It was big.”
If it’s the time of year that makes Bourque excel, it’s only a recent development largely in part to his spending the first three years of his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks before they were the re-vamped version they are today. Before arriving to the Montreal lineup in 2011, Bourque played four seasons with the Calgary Flames where he finally made his postseason debut in 2008-2009 where he collected 22 penalty minutes and his first postseason career goal in five games.
Also highlighting the win for the Canadiens is defenseman Andrei Markov who picked up three assists in last night’s win. Alex Galchenyuk, Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller and Dale Weise each finished with two points.
The win snapped a five-game postseason losing streak to the Rangers in Montreal and sends both teams back to New York where they will prepare for Thursday’s Game 6 battle as the Canadiens will try to stretch the series further; a task the Rangers are almost expecting, having not won a Stanley Cup Playoff series in less than seven games since 2008.
If the Canadiens can complete the comeback, it will be the club's third time in history it overcame a 3-1 series deficit to move on in the postseason. The latest coming against the Washington Capitals in the 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
"It was nice to bounce back," Bourque told his teams website. "We were pretty relaxed despite the circumstances. We knew what we had to do."
Game 6 will take place tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden at 8 p.m. ET.