BOSTON -- The Montreal Canadiens left TD Garden on Thursday after their fifth win in five games played in these Stanley Cup Playoffs knowing they stole one.
They also know it doesn't matter. A victory does not require style points to count.
The Canadiens did not deserve to beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 in double overtime, not after being outshot 51-33 and spending massive stretches of the game hemmed in their zone.
After 10 days of waiting and practicing since their first-round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canadiens were under siege for much of the night but came out victorious in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round Series, stealing the home-ice advantage and perhaps demoralizing the Bruins in one fell swoop.
"Our timing was off, to be honest," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien admitted. "We played like a team that hasn't played in 10 days. But the positive side of things is that even if I expect us to be better in the next game, and we found a way to win.
"That's what's important."
The win was earned on the back of Therrien's two brightest, young stars.
Carey Price, starting a second-round playoff game for the first time since his rookie season in 2008, turned at least a dozen of his teammates' mistakes into highlight-reel saves. The Bruins attacked with speed and purpose for shift after shift, threatening the Montreal net more often in one game than the Lightning managed in four, but Price was always there.
"You've got to find a way to win when a guy stands on his head like that," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "We had to find a way to win for him today."
Subban did just that with perhaps the finest playoff performance of his young career.
He snapped a 23-game goal drought dating to March 3 by bookending the game with power-play goals. He opened the scoring on a wrister from the point, then ended the game at 4:17 of the second overtime with a cannon of a slap shot off an offensive-zone faceoff win by Tomas Plekanec.
The goal capped a night that saw Subban lead both teams with 33:49 of ice time and play steady, sound hockey while adding to his standing as the most hated member of the Canadiens by the Boston fans.
"This is his kind of series," Canadiens defenseman Francis Bouillon said. "We knew when we found out we'd be playing Boston, I said to a couple of players, 'This will be his kind of series, it will be important for him to be at the top of his game.'
"He showed it tonight. Two big goals and he played a solid game defensively. He's a guy who likes it when there's controversy, and he likes being booed by the fans too, so I knew he'd have a good series."
Subban had been in a similar situation in this building before, scoring the game-tying goal on a power play with 1:57 left in regulation of Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal to force overtime. After scoring that goal Subban put his hand to his ear to better hear the Boston fans boo him; this time he simply stood still at the blue line and waited for his teammates to begin the celebration.
It is a more mature Subban than what we saw in 2011, but one who can still infuriate the fans in Boston and thrive on it just as much.
"Just growing up, [I liked] having success in the biggest games, in the craziest atmospheres, in the craziest buildings, in the biggest moments," Subban said. "To me that's how you define yourself and your career, yourself as a player. I think that it's always important for me to make sure that I'm competing and I'm helping my team win in these types of games. That's how I evaluate myself and my game. I don't evaluate it in the 5-0 games or the 4-0 games. When the game's tight I feel confident because I know that my teammates count on me and they expect me to step up and make things happen."
Price and Subban, two stars entering their prime, each stepped up and made a victory happen for the Canadiens, one manufactured out of practically nothing. Every possible area of comparison in Game 1 belonged to the Bruins except for the one that mattered most: the score.
"You don't get frustrated after one game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I didn't mind the way our team played tonight. We had lots of chances. Sure, we fell behind 2-0, but we showed some resiliency and came back and I thought we carried the play for the most part."
The Bruins did indeed do just that, and still lost.
Of course, they were in this situation in the last round, dropping the first game of the series against the Detroit Red Wings on home ice before winning the next four games. They could very well do the exact same thing again in this series.
However, the Bruins have now lost seven of their past eight games against the Canadiens and goaltender Tuukka Rask, who was not pleased with his own performance Thursday, to say the least, has not beaten Montreal at TD Garden in nine career attempts.
At some point, the Bruins may start wondering what it is about the Canadiens that gives them so much trouble, why can they dominate basically the rest of the NHL but not this team?
They have until Saturday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS) to figure it out.
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