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Rangers give up late lead, chance to take 2-0 series lead back to New York

Rangers give up late lead, fall to Canadiens

MONTREAL — The New York Rangers took a one-goal lead into the third period in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final against Montreal. They played defensively for the final 20 minutes and it ended up costing them.

The Rangers were a period away from taking a 2-0 series lead back to New York but the Canadiens threw everything they had at the visitors in the final 20 minutes and eventually broke through in the dying seconds. The best-of-seven series is now tied 1-1 after Montreal’s 4-3 overtime win. 

Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec scored with 18 seconds remaining in the third before Alexander Radulov won it in overtime with 1:26 left on the clock.

The Canadiens outshot New York 18-9 in the third and 13-8 in overtime.

“We had stretches where they came really hard and made it tough for us,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 54 shots â€” a personal-best for a post-season game. “They did a good job of keeping pucks in tonight and that’s where we got hurt.

“We had a couple of times to get the puck out and they worked hard to keep them in. That’s where they created their second and third chances.”

New York’s best opportunity in the third period came off the stick of Michael Grabner, who had already scored earlier in the game. Grabner was sent in all alone on the breakaway nine minutes into the third but he fired over the crossbar.

That would have given the Rangers a 4-2 lead.

Instead, the Canadiens were relentless in the final frame until they eventually found an equalizer.

Despite blowing the lead late, Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh felt the team’s strategy of sitting back and parking the bus was the right one.

“We were playing hard and well in our zone,” said McDonagh. “There were some scrambles where it looked like they were getting stuff happening, but I thought we kept them to the outside.

“It stings a lot.”

Six minutes into the period, Shea Weber came close to tying the game when his shot rang off the crossbar.

Midway through the frame, Jeff Petry found himself alone in front of net with Lundqvist at his mercy. The Rangers goalie was sprawled out on the ice but Petry’s shot from just a few feet out sailed high.

A few minutes later, Lundqvist, playing without a stick, saved a slap shot from Weber before snagging Alex Galchenyuk’s rebound out of mid air.

In the opening game of the best-of-seven series on Wednesday, the Rangers also took a one-goal lead into the third period but held on tight, limiting Montreal to just six shots in the third.

But Montreal’s 17th third-period shot on Friday was the difference.

“Obviously they’re going to have their push there,” said third-line winger JT Miller. “But we did a great job of defending and not giving them much. They got an extra guy at the end and they found him loose in front.”

Added Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault: “They threw a lot of pucks at our net but I don’t think there were too many chances. We did a pretty good job.”

Montreal got goals from Petry and Paul Byron in the first period. Grabner, Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello scored for the Rangers.

Game 3 is set for Sunday night in New York.

Notes: Lundqvist’s previous career high in post-season saves was 49, against the Washington Capitals in 2011. … Plekanec leads the Canadiens with 31 playoff-points against the Rangers.

Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press