NEW YORK — Dustin Tokarski as two days to relax, and he won’t have to come up with any more answers about whether he is ready for the Stanley Cup playoff stage.
His play Thursday night against the New York Rangers did all the talking and got the Montreal Canadiens’ postseason drive going in the right direction again.
In his second career NHL playoff game, the 24-year-old Tokarski stopped 35 shots and bounced back from a potentially crushing goal in the final seconds of regulation to lift the Canadiens to a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Montreal still trails the series 2-1, but can get even with a repeat performance at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
“I did everything I could,” said Tokarski, filling in for the injured Carey Price. “I played the same game all the way. I felt more comfortable as it went along.
“So glad we overcame that late bounce and got the winner.”
That was scored by Alex Galchenyuk, who in his second game of these playoffs, tipped in a pass from Tomas Plekanec at the right post 1:12 into overtime.
Chris Kreider, whose collision with Price in the series opener led to the goalie’s injury, netted the tying goal with 28.1 seconds left to offset Danny Briere’s go-ahead tally for Montreal with 3:02 remaining in regulation.
Galchenyuk scored 13 goals in 65 regular-season games, and he had one previous playoff goal in six career games.
“To be honest, I have no idea what happened,” Galchenyuk said. “(Plekanec) put it on net and it bounced off my stick or hit me. It went in, and the celebration started from there.”
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien made the surprise decision to start the inexperienced Tokarski in Game 2 instead of veteran Peter Budaj, who was shaky in relief of Price in Game 1.
Tokarski played well in the 3-1 loss on Monday and stopped 27 shots. He validated his coach’s decision to stick with him during the first game of the series on enemy ice.
“Dustin Tokarski was phenomenal,” Therrien said. “He’s a battler, and most important thing, he’s a winner.
“I felt our team played with more confidence as the game went on, and (the Rangers) got a break at the end to tie the game up. But without Tokarski’s performance, probably the result would have been different.”
New York had its five-game winning streak snapped, and its run of six straight victories over the Canadiens also ended. The Rangers fell to 1-1 in overtime in these playoffs. The Canadiens are 3-1.
“We played really well, but we just have to forget about it, move on, and get ready for the next one,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said.
Montreal was poised to win it in regulation after Briere scored. Kreider tied it when his shot hit the sliding right skate of defenseman Alexei Emelin in the crease and caromed past Tokarski, who thrust his head upward in disgust as the Garden shook.
“They tied it with 20 seconds left, and it was an emotional game,” Galchenyuk said. “It was tough coming back in the locker room, but we focused. We have a character team, and we bounced back.”
Tokarski is playing because of a series-ending injury sustained by Price, who was barreled into by Kreider in Game 1.
Briere’s goal was also aided by an opposing defenseman, as Ryan McDonagh nudged the puck past Lundqvist.
Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov tied it at 1 for the Canadiens in the second period after Carl Hagelin staked New York to the lead in the first. Lundqvist made 22 saves.
The Rangers grabbed the lead in the first period that featured only one goal but hardly lacked for action.
By the time Hagelin put New York in front with a batted shot, there had already been one injury as the result of a questionable open-ice hit by Brandon Prust on Derek Stepan, and an ejection after Daniel Carcillo sought revenge on Prust — a former Rangers fan favorite — for his leveling of Stepan.
Prust landed a blindsided shot to Stepan’s chest with his shoulder 4:48 in, knocking down Stepan, who remained on the ice for several moments before skating off. Stepan returned later in the period. Prust heard boos the rest of the game.
Carcillo’s night ended about three minutes later when he rammed Prust from behind in back of the Canadiens net. Carcillo earned a penalty for charging, and Prust then fought Derek Dorsett. Carcillo tried to get free from linesman Scott Driscoll to join the fray, and elbowed Driscoll in the process and was ejected.
He now could face a lengthy NHL suspension.
“He can’t do what he did there, but we’ll let the league handle that,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “I believe if a penalty would have been called on Prust, it probably wouldn’t have happened, but there is nothing we can do about it.”
The Rangers killed the penalty, and then got on the board.
Hagelin raced up ice on a 2-on-1 with St. Louis and sent a pass to him on the right. St. Louis fired a quick shot that was blocked in the crease by defenseman Josh Gorges, but the puck popped up. Hagelin deftly batted it in for his fifth of the playoffs — tied for the team lead — with 4:42 left in the first.
New York used its speed to build a 14-4 shots edge in the opening period.
Max Pacioretty set up Markov’s goal when he sent a pass from the left-wing boards across the Rangers zone into the right circle to Markov, who ripped his first of the postseason past Lundqvist at 3:21 of the second.
NOTES: The Rangers were without forward Derick Brassard for the second straight game because of an upper-body injury in the series opener. ... Montreal used struggling forward Thomas Vanek on its fourth line. ... New York is 10-2 in series it has led 2-0. ... The Rangers haven’t allowed a power-play goal in eight games, their longest playoff streak since a 10-game run in 1940.