The Montreal Canadiens overcame the Boston Bruins 4-3 at the TD Garden on Thursday in a double-overtime thriller to take a 1-0 series lead in their NHL playoff battle.
The NHL's most storied rivalry hadn't seen the two sides meet in the playoffs since 2011, but they wasted little time living up to the expectations.
Meeting No. 34 (the Habs held a 24-9 advantage entering Thursday night) wound up being another classic for the ages as P.K. Subban's second goal downed the Bruins at home. Carey Price's 48 saves and suffocating defense allowed the Habs to survive being outshot 51-33.
The Bruins' third-period goal wasn't enough, as the rally faded once the extra periods began. Tuukka Rask saved 29 shots, but the Boston offense simply couldn't properly execute despite controlling most of the contest.
After the two old foes got acquainted for the first 10 minutes of the contest, Montreal took advantage via an aggressive approach, which resulted in Subban sneaking one past Rask in the final minute of a power play to make it 1-0.
While a pretty shot by Subban, it was the overarching strategy the Canadiens brought to the table that allowed them to jump out to an early lead in the first period.
Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe details how the aggressive approach prevented the Bruins from accomplishing much of anything offensively:
Thanks to a strong first-period showing from netminder Price, who didn't have to do much thanks to those in front of him, the underdogs hit the locker room with an early lead despite being outshot 13-10.
Despite an extended layoff, CBC's Tim Wharnsby mused that the Canadiens had not skipped a beat in the first period:
For what it's worth, the Bruins, despite entering the series a heavy favorite, understood this was a possibility. Brad Marchand spoke before the game and explained that the historic rivalry between the two sides leaves little room for error, per Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com:
It's a longstanding rivalry and it goes back so far, so many years. The fans love it, the media loves it and obviously we love being out against them, but we can't let that get in our way of the real goal and we need to make sure we have a really good game every time we step on the ice.
Montreal needed about three minutes of the second period to go up 2-0 and remind the globe that the series is played on ice, not paper. Rene Bourque capitalized on a turnover by the Bruins and did the dirty work, as Jack Edwards of NESN illustrates:
Notice a trend? The home team mostly dominated a period in the majority of areas—except the one that matters most.
As for Bourque, he continues to be quite the surprise. Yahoo! Sports' Nick Cotsonika has the shocking stats for the unexpected hero:
Meanwhile, Dimitri Filipovic of Canucksarmy.com just wants to make sure Bourque is legit:
The rest of the second period had a familiar flow and even saw the Bruins go on a serious power play, but they were once again stifled by Price.
TD Garden came to life in the third period. Fast.
Not even three minutes into the final frame, the Bruins finally got on the board via a hard shot from the sideboards by Reilly Smith to make it 2-1. Joe Haggerty of CSNNE captured the moment well:
Less than four minutes later the home side knotted things up via superb passing from both Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron, which in turn allowed Torey Krug to rocket the puck past Price.
While great the Bruins were able to knot things up, Shinzawa reminded spectators that the game shouldn't have been so close:
After attempting just three shots through the first 10 minutes of the third period and having the look of an animal caught in fast-approaching headlights, something clicked for the Canadiens once more.
Thirty-eight-year-old Francis Bouillon led the charge with a wicked wrist shot to help his team regain the lead with a little more than eight minutes remaining in regulation.
ESPN segment producer Vin Masi provided a stunning stat concerning the veteran's clutch goal:
Boston wasted little time rattling in a response by Johnny Boychuk to tie things up at three goals apiece and send the affair into a predictable extra period.
That extra period saw play revert back to how the first two unfolded—Boston getting plenty of chances, but not actually converting. The Bruins had a 14-6 advantage in shots on goal, but did little with the opportunities and even allowed the Canadiens to start the second overtime period on a 1:33 power play.
Which they did nothing with, of course.
That can be forgiven though, as the Canadiens got a faceoff on their second power play of the period. The puck poetically wound up in Subban's hands, and he blasted it by Rask to complete the upset.
Game 2 goes down on Saturday night at the same venue, and the recipe for the home team is rather simple—find a way to get the puck past Price. If the Bruins can't convert more opportunities to actual points, this series is going to take a trip up north with Boston in a 2-0 hole.
For Montreal, the formula is likewise rather simple. Continue to use astounding depth and have surprise players like Bouillon put the puck in the net. It's clear depth is a big advantage at this point, and it's something the Habs must continue to rely on to make short work of their rivals.