“Trust what you see.”
Marty St. Louis looked weathered and worn and each of his 38 years. It was midnight and he had just played more than 21 minutes, led his team in shots on goal, and had – more importantly – scored the overtime winner on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
Asked in French as he left the New York Rangers dressing room why he continued to go high glove side on young netminder Dustin Tokarski – as he did for the winner, wide open and alone six minutes into OT – St. Louis responded in English.
He saw something.
“Trust what you see,” he said.
With that, the Montreal Canadiens are in big trouble.
St. Louis, whose story of personal tragedy and on-ice success has been told again and again of late, now has seven points in his last six games, the same number of games he has played since the unexpected death of his mother, France, in the middle of the second round.
A non-factor earlier this postseason, St. Louis has been anything but of late, coming alive with big goals and assists first against the Pittsburgh Penguins with his team trailing the series 3-1 and now in pushing the team he cheered for as a boy to the brink of elimination.
It can be all over now in Game 5 on Tuesday, with the Rangers booking their first trip to the finals in 20 years with their next win.
“He brings so much for our locker room,” said linemate Carl Hagelin, who set up the winner with a terrific cross-ice pass. “We’re just happy for him.”
“I’ve jumped on him a couple times in overtime [after a goal] and it never gets old,” said Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup with St. Louis in Tampa 10 years ago. “It’s fun moments you’ll never forget.”
“It’s a great shot by him,” Hagelin added. “He didn’t have much to shoot at – but he found it.”
St. Louis has been looking in that direction all series on Tokarski, a rookie playing in his first NHL playoff games with Habs starter Carey Price out with an injury.
A left hand shot who plays the right side, St. Louis has put several of his 14 shots in the first four games toward that top right side of the net and had been working on finding the perfect placement in practice of late.
He scored once there in Game 2 – an insurance goal on the power play – and found success there again on Sunday.
“The goal he scored tonight is exactly what you see him practise every time he's on the ice – like a hundred pucks,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “He's trying to put it right there. Made obviously a great shot on that goal.”
“I’ve gone to that side quite a bit the last few games,” St. Louis said. “He’s made some good saves on me… You get this far [in the playoffs] and you’ve got to trust yourself. That’s what I try to do and I was fortunate.”
St. Louis’s recent run gives him 13 points in 18 games in this postseason, making him the top scoring Ranger and putting him possibly in the Conn Smythe Trophy conversation (although netminder Henrik Lundqvist is an obvious favourite if New York continues to win).
His personal story, however, has faded to the background here of late as the media has allowed him to move on, something Richards, his closest friend on the team, believes is appropriate.
“He wouldn’t want it any other way,” Richards said. “If that [tragedy] didn’t happen, he’d still be here scoring big goals for us. I get the story, and as a friend of his, we’re all thankful that people have recognized what he went through. But he’s just trying to be a good teammate and try to help the team win. That’s what he’s doing.”
“We got to close it,” St. Louis said of going back to Montreal, his hometown, for Tuesday’s Game 5. “We’ve got to close it.”