New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens - Game Five

With Lundqvist, AV is nipping potential meltdowns in the bud


Alain Vigneault didn’t ask Henrik Lundqvist if he wanted to go back in for the third period. The Rangers coach had already made the decision to pull his star goalie less than halfway through Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, after Montreal had taken a 4-1 lead and the Bell Centre had entered full-on madhouse mode.

Backup Cam Talbot was the one between the pipes as New York stormed back to tie it, and he stayed between the pipes for the rest of the game, a 7-4 Canadiens victory. Talbot surrendered one goal in the second, after New York had leveled the score, then one more in the third. The Habs scored their seventh into an empty net.

“I pulled [Lundqvist] because I thought at that time we needed a little momentum shift, and I thought it might catch everybody’s attention,” Vigneault said. “It did for a while. Obviously, it didn’t work out.”

It was the second time in these playoffs that Lundqvist had been pulled after allowing four goals prior to the second intermission. He got the hook in Game 6 of the Rangers’ first-round series versus Philadelphia, before responding with a solid performance in Game 7, a 2-1 New York victory.

Vigneault expects another solid bounce-back Thursday at Madison Square Garden, this time with a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

“He’s a veteran player,” the coach said today. “One of the best in his area, and I’m sure he’s going to be focused and ready for the next game.”

Vigneault, you may recall, was criticized when he was coaching Vancouver for failing to pull Roberto Luongo during rough playoff outings. Like in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, when Luongo allowed all eight goals in an 8-1 loss to the Bruins in Boston.

“[Luongo] said, ‘Don’t even think about taking me out,’ so that’s what I did,” Vigneault said after that game, leaving many to wonder why the coach had left the decision up to the player. It was 4-0 after 15:47 of the second period. Why not pull him then, before things got really out of hand? Which they most certainly did. Much to the delight of the Boston fans.

The very next game, Vigneault did pull Luongo, early in the third after he’d allowed four goals on just 20 shots, perhaps still shaken from his previous outing.

But it was the eight-goal meltdown that people still remember to this day. And don’t forget, all the blame Luongo received after the Canucks blew a 2-0 lead and lost to the Bruins was a factor in his much-publicized request to be traded.

Three years later, is it possible Vigneault has learned from his experience in Vancouver? That he’s realized people have a way of forgetting when goalies get pulled after allowing four goals? That it’s the big-time meltdowns — when six, seven or eight get past a guy — that everyone remembers, and can have franchise-altering consequences?

Only the coach has the power to nip those meltdowns in the bud.

“We didn’t give [Lundqvist] too much help,” said Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, “and obviously A.V. felt that was the right move just to get him out of the game.”

And get re-focused for the next one.


‘Yotes return Dylan Strome to OHL

Dylan Strome, Nikita Nikitin
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The Arizona Coyotes have returned Dylan Strome to the Erie Otters of the OHL.

Strome, 18, was the third overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

The 6’3, 185 pounder was hoping to stick with the Coyotes this season, but the team decided to take the conservative approach with their top prospect.

Strome will look to build off an incredible junior season that saw him score 45 goals and 129 points in 68 games.

Strome seems to be taking the demotion in stride.

The team also announced that they’ve assigned goaltender Louis Domingue and forward Matthias Plachta to their AHL affiliate in Springfield.

Domingue, 23, had a 1-2-1 record with a 2.73 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage in seven games last season.

Plachta, a free agent signing, will begin his first pro season in North America. The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 35 points in the German League last season.


Detroit places Datsyuk and three others on I.R.

Pavel Datsyuk,
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The Red Wings have placed Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm, Danny DeKeyser and Alexey Marchenko on injured reserve.

Placing these players on I.R. opens up four more roster spots for Detroit.

The Red Wings have suffered an incredibe amount of injuries heading into the season.

Datsyuk (ankle) is expected to be out until November.

DeKeyser (foot) is going to miss three-to-four weeks, while Helm (concussion) and Marchenko (lower-body) are considered day-to-day.

The team also announced that they have reduced their training camp roster to 27 players on Sunday.

Top prospect Dylan Larkin remains in camp for now.

Coach Jeff Blashill told reporters that the 19-year-old has looked good, but a final decision hasn’t been made on where he will play this year.

As for Larkin, he’s just fed up of living in a hotel.

“There’s been so much speculation and so many questions, and no one really knows,” said Larkin. “Maybe the coaches know, but just to find out where I’ll be living or what’s happening — I’m kind of sick of the hotel. It would be nice to know what’s going on.”