Ex-Lightning goaltender Tokarski in spotlight for Canadiens
Former Lightning stars Marty St. Louis and Brad Richards have taken center stage when it comes to the Rangers run into the Eastern Conference Final.
The Rangers rallying around St. Louis, who recently lost his mother, has been the biggest storyline.
But with the Canadiens trailing New York 2-0 in the best-of-series, it's another former Tampa Bay player that is under the most pressure.
Montreal rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski, 24, will make his second straight start in Game 3 Thursday at Madison Square Garden, as the Canadiens backs are against the wall. Tokarski, drafted in 2008 by the Lightning, spent five years in the organization (playing just seven NHL games), before getting traded to the Canadiens Feb. 2013 for fellow goalie Cedrick Desjardins.
Tokarski has big shoes to fill, stepping in for Canadiens star goalie Carey Price, who was injured in Game 1. Tokarski did pretty well in Game 2, stopping 27 of 30 shots in a 3-1 loss, bested only by Rangers star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 40 of 41.
"I thought I played well, but I came up short with a few big saves," Tokarski told reporters afterwards. "[Lundqvist] made a few more big saves, game-changers, than I did. That was the difference tonight."
It was an interesting decision to pick Tokarski over veteran backup Peter Budaj, who has struggled in his seven previous playoff games (5.10 goals against average). But Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said he picked Tokarski to start because he's a winner, a reputation garnered from winning the Memorial Cup in 2008, the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2009 and Calder Cup in 2012. Just ask Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who coached Tokarski in AHL Norfolk, and he'll rave about Tokarski's ability and competitiveness.
“I liked his presence,” Therrien said after Game 2. “We went with him because of his track record — because he’s a winner. He played well.”
Tokarski appears to be handling the moment well, telling reporters he had "good nerves" and feels "good pressure" from the fan base.
But this is no doubt the biggest challenge of his career.
"In this building and in the shadows and having everyone talk about the loss of Carey, and I'm sure everyone's talking about how he has to be the savior and fill his boots and this that and the next, and it's a lot," Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges told NHL.com. "It's a lot to take in for a young guy. But if there's anyone who could do it, it's him."