The Montreal Canadiens entered hostile territory Wednesday night at the TD Garden and pulled off a stunning 3-1 upset over the Boston Bruins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
MONTREAL WINS GAME 7! Canadiens beat Bruins, 3-1, to advance to Eastern Conference Final. pic.twitter.com/EqZpIoUnZE— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 15, 2014
Montreal was fueled by Dale Weise, who shared goal-scoring duties with Max Pacioretty and Daniel Briere. Netminder Carey Price put together a noteworthy performance (29 saves) in the face of a shot-happy Bruins team energized by a raucous crowd.
Price is on quite the streak and has the Habs thinking about a title, as jarring numbers from ESPN Stats & Info suggest:
If you count the Olympic medal round, Canadiens goalie Carey Price is 5-0 in elimination games this year with .984 save percentage— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2014
As ESPN's Pierre LeBrun notes, the Habs are a different team as of late:
Montreal Canadiens seemed like a different team ever since that miracle comeback vs. Ottawa on Mar 15. Have gone 17-6-1 combined since then.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) May 15, 2014
The Bruins were clearly the aggressor in Game 7, but a lone goal from Jarome Iginla on a power play was a whimper in the face of a suffocating Habs defense. Goalie Tuukka Rask saved 15 shots but allowed the critical scores to eek past.
|(3) Montreal Canadiens||1||1||1|
|(1) Boston Bruins||0||1||0|
Scoring the first goal is always important, especially in a Game 7.
The Canadiens didn't wait around, scoring the opening goal just two minutes and 18 seconds into the first period. Weise's third goal of the playoffs came thanks to a great pass from Briere. As Joe Haggerty of CSN New England illustrates, it was both a great move and a sign Boston was in a bit of trouble:
Wow. Major brain cramp on defense. B's caught sleeping & allows Dale Weise in on the backdoor. Briere founds him & Habs up 1-0 #BruinsTalk— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) May 14, 2014
The Habs' Twitter account captured the moment:
Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe described the effort from the Bruins in the early going:
This is not the team we've watched all season.— Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin) May 14, 2014
Bruins head coach Claude Julien summed up his thoughts on the matter in an interview during intermission, via All Habs Hockey:
The Habs entered the game 5-0 this postseason when leading after 20 minutes.
The Bruins came out strong at the start of the second getting the first six shots on goal in the period, but Price was up to the task.
Then the Habs struck again.
AT 10:22, Pacioretty extended his point-scoring streak to three games with a pretty goal off assists from David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher. NHL.com's Pete Jensen labeled the shot in an apt manner:
Max Pacioretty has come alive late in this series. Pure snipe. #Habs— Pete Jensen (@NHLJensen) May 15, 2014
Interestingly enough, Pacioretty's holding the stick penalty in the offensive zone about six minutes later gave the Bruins a power play, which the home team capitalized on to get on the board.
Iginla was able to sneak the puck past Price late in the second period for a tip-in goal. Not only did it alter the landscape of the game, it snapped a streak the Bruins desperately needed out of, as Haggerty notes:
The Jarome Iginla goal in the second period snapped a goalless streak of 103:46 for the Bruins #BruinsTalk— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) May 15, 2014
Yes, this started the whispers of yet another playoff comeback for Boston as things transitioned to the final frame, as suggested by Fox Sports' Jon Morosi:
Bruins are like the Yankees used to be: In the playoffs, you assume the comeback is imminent.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) May 15, 2014
It simply wasn't meant to be. Yet again, the third period was dominated statistically by the Bruins, as they were overly aggressive in their pursuit of goals.
Briere's late power play goal off of Zdeno Chara's skate would be the only scoring in the third, and it all but sealed the series for Montreal.
The fluky goal was a tough way to end the season for the Bruins, as ESPN Radio's Brent Axe muses:
Oh man. That's gonna sting all offseason for the Bruins. Off your own guy's skate? Ouch.— Brent Axe (@BrentAxeMedia) May 15, 2014
For the Bruins, it's surely a difficult way to end things after winning the Presidents Trophy during the regular season. Julien's team has some soul searching to do after a rather mediocre performance with everything on the line on home ice.
The Canadiens move on with a boatload of momentum to meet the New York Rangers in the conference finals, a team that just won a seven-game series of their own over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Montreal once again enters as a legitimate threat thanks to the same efficient play and netminding from Price that won the series on Wednesday.