Bourque a surprise hero for Habs


MONTREAL -- As the hats came cascading down on the Bell Centre ice surface 6:33 into the third period, one couldn't help but wonder just how life was for Rene Bourque just four months ago.

Back then, Bourque's name popped up more in trade gossip than it did on the scoresheet, the Montreal Canadiens rumored to be in the odd conversation with teams about their struggling winger.

It was painful to watch at times, Bourque clearly frustrated as he registered just nine goals in 63 regular-season games.

But the March 5 trade deadline came and went without Bourque switching uniforms. What is it they say about the best trades sometimes are the ones you never make?

No one, absolutely nobody alive on this planet, could have foreseen eight goals in 16 playoff games for Rene Gary Wayne Bourque this spring.

But credit the native of Lac La Biche, Alberta, for showing up when it matters most, rediscovering those hands that made him a back-to-back 27-goal scorer with the Calgary Flames.

His second goal of the night gave Montreal the lead for good at 5-4 with 4:50 to go in a whacky second period. His hat trick goal 6:33 into the third period was the nail in the  New York Rangers ' coffin.

The Habs lived to see another day.

"Obviously it's probably the biggest game of my career for sure," said Bourque, surrounded by a mob of media in the Montreal dressing room.

"I've had a few [hat tricks] before, but obviously this was the biggest of my career. It's nice. It's nice to get rewarded."

Montreal's 7-4 win forced a Game 6 in the Eastern Conference finals to be played Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

By then, Henrik Lundqvist will have taken his spot back in the Rangers' net after being pulled 8:58 in the second period, his team down 4-1.

That Habs rookie Dustin Tokarski has battled Lundqvist to a 2-2 draw since taking over for the injured Carey Price is just another crazy twist in a series that has had its share of hard-to-believe storylines.

Unless of course, you ask Bourque about the surprising goalie duel.

"Everybody talks about how he's a great goalie," Bourque said of Lundqvist. "Has he been better than Ticker [Tokarski] this series? I don't think so. Ticker made some big saves for us, too. We had a couple bad bounces but our power play was the difference. We got some traction, got a couple goals in tight."

Two things the Canadiens desperately wanted to achieve on this night: play with a lead -- they had led for only 2:50 in the entire series before Game 5 -- and score on the power play after going 1-for-17 in the previous four games.

They accomplished both just 1:48 into the game when Alex Galchenyuk redirected  P.K. Subban 's point shot.

The goal energized the NHL's most passionate crowd, and the deafening noise carried the Habs into some of their best hockey in a while, Montreal going up 4-1 on Bourque's first goal of the night 6:54 into the second period.

Then, well, just as you think this baby's over, the weirdness that is the 2014 Eastern Conference finals took over.

Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider all scored within a 4:36 span to tie the game 4-4.

The Rangers' front office group was jumping up for joy in their suite at the Bell Centre, the Montreal crowd was stunned, and if the 24-year-old Tokarski didn't know anything about hockey in the 1980s, he did now.

"I don't know much about it but I'm assuming that's what it was like," chuckled Tokarski after the game.

Thing is, while the fans were panicking, the Habs themselves were not.

The gritty Canadiens showed the resolve that helped them upset the No. 1-seeded Boston Bruins last round, taking a deep breath and not allowing the game to get away from them.

"The reason I didn't call timeout is because I felt our attitude on the bench was good," said Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien. "When they tied the game, attitude was sharp and we scored not too far after, so we didn't decide to call a timeout because, as a coach, you had a feeling that your team is losing confidence, but that was not the case."

Therrien's gut calls have been nearly perfect all postseason long.

His team rallied back for the victory, capped by  David Desharnais ' empty-netter with 4:17 to go.

Montreal is now 3-0 this spring in elimination games, having come back from a 3-2 series deficit to beat the Bruins.

"There's a lot of distractions, a lot of noise in this city," said winger Max Pacioretty, who was fantastic Tuesday night while posting a goal plus an assist. "I think when we let it affect us and we don't worry about ourselves and what we can control, we get away from our games a bit. Now that we're in desperation mode, our backs are against the wall, we're just worrying about what we can control. When we get four lines buzzing like that, and play the way we're capable of, and only worry about ourselves, we have a lot of success and hopefully we can do that next game."

So much intrigue heading into Game 6. The Rangers really need to end this. If you're the Blueshirts, you can't get back on a plane for a seventh and deciding game on Saturday night in Montreal.

The Habs are believing again. And that's a dangerous thing.