One hundred pucks. Ten thousand hours. And the payoff comes at 6:02 of overtime in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final.
This is Martin St. Louis’s world. This is his arena.
We can’t imagine what it’s like to be Marty St. Louis these days. Since January, St. Louis has gone from Olympic outcast to sympathetic figure; to gold medallist to disgruntled employee; to struggling new guy to heartbroken son; to sympathetic hero to Conn Smythe candidate within one win of his first Stanley Cup final in 10 years.
Sunday brought another emotional high on the roller coaster that is the NHL’s 2013 scoring champ’s 2014.
“You’ve got to trust yourself,” St. Louis told reporters Sunday, after finally sniping a puck past Montreal goaltender Dustin Tokarski’s glove hand to give his Rangers a 3-2 game 4 win and a 3-1 series lead.
It wasn’t until St. Louis’ 10th shot in two games that he finally cracked Tokarski.
“I’ve gone to that side quite a bit that last few games, and he’s made some good saves on me,” St. Louis said of the series’ other great story. “Sometimes you just have to keep trusting what you see, and I was fortunate to get it by him.”
Not unlike the undrafted St. Louis’s entire hockey career, his overtime winner was an exercise in persistence.
Rookie Tokarski had stymied the wily vet three times on golden chances in the past two games, and it was beginning to get comical:
Yet St. Louis — all alone after the Habs tried and failed three times to clear the puck out of their zone in overtime — went to the high-glove well a fourth time.
“The goal he scored tonight is exactly what you see him practise every time he’s on the ice,” New York coach Alain Vigneault said. “Like 100 pucks, he’s trying to put it right there.”
Said Tokarski, whose left hand is not, in fact, kryptonite: “He picked it. Expert shot there.”
Riding high on a six-game point streak, St. Louis’s winner was his first overtime playoff goal since scoring in Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Quebec native, who turns 39 next month, leads all Rangers in the post-season with six goals and 13 points.
When the Rangers sent pending UFA Ryan Callahan and two first-round picks to Tampa Bay for St. Louis, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was believed to have gotten the better end of the deal.
If New York goes to its first Cup final in 20 years, it’ll be difficult to still make that argument.
Watch: Rangers’ mic’d up for OT win and celebration