NEW YORK -- Imagine Dustin Tokarski's reaction had someone suggested to him seven days ago that he'd be leading the Montreal Canadiens to an overtime playoff victory at Madison Square Garden in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
"I'd think they had a little too much to drink," the humble kid from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, said with a laugh. "But you know, that's what the sport is all about. You never know what can happen and I'm just taking it all in right now."
Channeling his inner-Steve Penney circa 1984, Tokarski inserted his name into NHL playoff lore Thursday night, stopping 35 of 37 shots with Montreal's season, for all intents and purposes, on the line as the Habs prevailed in a thrilling 3-2 OT affair, cutting the New York Rangers' series lead to 2-1.
"Dustin Tokarski was phenomenal tonight," said Habs head coach Michel Therrien. "He's a battler, and most important thing, he's a winner."
With each impressive save Thursday night, Tokarski gave his teammates more and more reason to believe they can still win without injured star goalie Carey Price.
These are the games you remember for a long time.
"That was fun to see," veteran Habs forward Daniel Briere said. "That's what we were telling ourselves after the first period, that we needed to get one for him. What he did throughout the game, but especially keeping us in the game in the first period, we owed him one, to say the least."
Playing with the poise of a veteran, the 24-year-old Tokarski stood on his head in the opening period, stopping 13 of 14 shots and allowing the Canadiens to catch their breath.
"If it wasn't for him, it could have easily been three, four, five-nothing," added Briere.
Instead, Tokarski kept the Habs in there long enough for Andrei Markov to tie the game at one, 3:20 into the second period, a goal that had a soothing effect on the outplayed Canadiens.
It remained a 1-1 game until Mr. Playoffs himself, Briere, put Montreal ahead after banking a shot off Rangers blueliner Ryan McDonagh with 3:02 left in the third period.
The Rangers then pressured like crazy, Tokarski making a heart-stopping glove save on Martin St. Louis from in-close.
The kid was going to steal this one, he was really going to do it.
Madison Square Garden was rocking, and suddenly the underdog storyline of Tokarski was in jeopardy.
Thing is, the Canadiens went back to their room and kept the vibe positive, feeling like this was still their game to win.
"Guys were just upbeat, talking, just saying, 'keep going, any shot can win it, they got a weird bounce and no reason we can't either,'" said Tokarski.
"It wasn't pretty, but we found a way tonight," said Briere.
That Kreider goal could have spelled doom for the Canadiens, but they showed an awful amount of character in bouncing back from it.