NEW YORK —You get the feeling that if they all had broken jaws like Derek Stepan, they'd still be yapping. They'd still find a way to curse each other out and keep skating.
Drama in the NHL playoffs arrives in many ways and in various languages. And this series, this reality show playing out in French and English, has proven especially nasty, especially silly, especially emotional and, yes, sublime.
Love it. Love it. Love it.
And when Martin St. Louis, who has endured such tragedy and glory this spring, beat Montreal goalie Dustin Tokarski 6:02 into overtime Sunday night at Madison Square Garden to push the Rangers within one victory of their first Stanley Cup Final since 1994 — well, somehow it felt right.
After all, Tokarski had robbed St. Louis on a clean breakaway with one of the great all-time glove saves in the second period.
"I tried to trust my instinct," said St. Louis, whose mother, France, died of a heart attack on May 8. "I tried to go top glove a couple of times. Sometimes that's what you see. He made some big saves. I was fortunate at the end."
Final score: Rangers, 3, Habs 2. But, believe it, there are more scores to be settled before this conference final is over.
If Chris Kreider, who lost his balance after being disrupted by Alexei Emelin, really did run over goalie Carey Price on purpose in Game 1, he's a magician and a contortionist. Montreal coach Michel Therrien called Kreider reckless. Brandon Prust said Kreider did it accidentally on purpose. Price was knocked out of the series, but the silliness was only starting.
P.K. Subban suggested Henrik Lundqvist was "lucky." Yeah, one of the most brilliant goalies of the past decade is lucky. Maybe when Subban kissed Pierre McGuire on the cheek in an interview after the Bruins series, some of Pierre's happy talk rubbed off on Subban.
Even though the Rangers take a 3-1 series lead back to Montreal, you get the feeling we haven't seen the last of the craziness.
The nasty stuff continued in Game 3 after Prust, a former Ranger, laid out Stepan with a late and unnecessarily violent hit. Prust wasn't penalized on the play, but he did get a two-game suspension. The Rangers' Dan Carcillo got a 10-game suspension after a scuffle for elbowing linesman Scott Driscoll in the face. Yes, Driscoll was aggressive in handling Carcillo, Rangers fans, but you get what he deserved when you hit an official.
Stepan had surgery on his jaw Friday and was discharged Saturday night, but this didn't stop the Canadians from suggesting he might be faking.
"It seems a little fishy to me," Daniel Briere said Saturday. "It seems like a little bit of a game."
"He got up and he was yapping and yelling [after the play]," Brendan Gallagher said. "So, I'm sure the jaw isn't hurting too much."
Stepan didn't play Sunday. He was replaced by Derick Brassard, who had been out with an upper body injury, and, of course, Brassard pounded a shot past Tokarski with 55.3 seconds left in the second period to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
And just as surely, Subban, who had been horrible on the power play in this series, re-emerged to drive a one-timer past Lundqvist two minutes into the third period to force overtime. Alex Galchenyuk, who scored the overtime winner in Game 3, looked like he had gotten the winner late in the third period Sunday night. Of course, the puck hit the crossbar and bounced away. For every yin in this series, there is a yang. For every ping there is a pang.
They are playing into overtime. They are talking into overtime.
If everything in this series was as sublime as that windmill glove-save Tokarski made on St. Louis, it would be a much cleaner tale. But life can be complicated. So can a hockey series. The way the Rangers attended the funeral of France St. Louis between Games 1 and 2 in Montreal was poignant and touching. In the midst of heartache, St. Louis, who was traded to the Rangers late in the season, found great comfort with his team. Still, he had to keep on playing. Life goes on. And so does the drama.
The Rangers took undisciplined stick penalties in this game and not only didn't they pay for it before Subban's third period goal, they got a shorthanded score from Carl Hagelin. Brian Boyle, the 6-7 245-pound center out of Boston College, was immense killing off three first period penalties. So was Hagelin. And, with Subban and Max Pacioretty caught out of position, Boyle found Hagelin alone with a perfect pass. Hagelin drew to his backhand and tucked the puck between Tokarski's pads.
Twists and turns, twists and turns. Therrien decided to put 38-year-old defenseman Francis Bouillon back into his lineup Sunday and Bouillon pounded a shot past Lundqvist to the far side to tie the game at 1.
"We had our chances on the power play tonight and we didn't convert," said Therrien, whose team was 1-for-8 with the man advantage.
Montreal and New York are perfect media-wise for creating some deliciously profound and sometimes outlandishly silly points of view. And with two days off between Games 3 and 4, well, that was perfect for the war of words to escalate.
Therrien booted assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson and video coach Jerry Dineen, Kevin's brother, from practice Saturday. Video of the incident produced some spicy words. Therrien insisted there is a "gentlemen's agreement" not to watch practices on days between games. He says this agreement is out of "respect" for coaches who want to make adjustments between games.
"We were treated very unfairly yesterday," Vigneault said after the team's morning skate. "There is no rule. There was no agreement between both teams. That is the exception, not the rule. I've been asked in the past to do this on a couple of occasions. Usually the coach calls me or the [general manager]. Never happened.
"Very regrettable. This is the NHL. That type of behavior, we're lucky it didn't escalate."
Rangers GM Glen Sather said there was no such agreement and that Bergevin later apologized to him for the misunderstanding. There are all sorts of stuff flying in this series. Briere, for example, said "Ryan McDonagh's a great defenseman, but I haven't seen anyone slash as much as he has since Chris Pronger."
And, just think, the two coaches are buddies, or at least they were.
"I think he said it prior to the series, for this two-week period we're not really friends," Vigneault said. "He's probably right."
"Alain is an important person in my life," Therrien said. "He's a guy that pushed for me to get into pro hockey, and I respect that. Over the years we became great, great friends, and I've got tons of respect for him, and he's a good coach.
"But right now we're battling for the same thing. He wants to get to the Stanley Cup Final with his team, it's the same thing for me. I'm sure when everything's going to be done and everything's going to be over, and as soon as we get a chance to see each other, we're going to have a nice cold beer, like we did in the past, and nothing's going to change."
For now it has gotten squirrelly enough that the coaches are making veiled threats.
"We expect Derick Brassard to play and we know exactly where he's injured. Hockey is a small world," Therrien had said Saturday.
"Well, let me just put it this way: I just hope nothing happens to Brass," Vigneault answered. "The player and Michel could be in trouble."
Yes, it's messy. Yes, it's emotional. Yes, it has been crazy at times. But Vigneault probably provided the truest words on the night.
"Great shot by Marty," the Rangers coach said.
Yes, it was.