MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty would have remembered his first career goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs no matter how it was scored.
The way he did it will make that memory much nicer.
Pacioretty scored a power-play goal with 42.6 seconds to play to give the Montreal Canadiens a 4-3 win Tuesday. It gave the Canadiens a sweep of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After failing to score in the first three games of the series following a career-best 39-goal regular season, it was not a bad way for Pacioretty to get on the board.
"I didn't see the penalty, but as soon as I heard it, I knew this was my chance and I had to step up," Pacioretty said. "I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened."
The goal was the second-latest series-clinching goal in NHL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes scored with 32 seconds left in Game 7 of a 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New Jersey Devils.
Pacioretty's line with David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek was supposed to be the Canadiens' biggest weapon entering the series against the Lightning, putting up 18 goals and 23 assists in 14 games together.
"It was the only thing keeping me sane during my little drought there," Pacioretty said. "It's insane that we can talk about three games as a huge drought, but you're expected to score every night, especially when you get the minutes we get and the opportunities we get. I would have been really down on myself if other guys weren't stepping up and we hadn't come out with three wins."
Pacioretty's lack of goal production in the series should not be mistaken for poor play. He may have led Canadiens forwards in scoring chances in the series and just seemed snakebitten, either hitting goal posts or being robbed by outstanding saves every game.
But goal-scorers want to actually score goals. Chances are rarely satisfying, and they in fact make the lack of production that much more frustrating. His teammates leaned on Paciroetty for offense all season, and they were happy to see him finally put one in.
"It's great, especially for [Pacioretty]," said Canadiens forward Rene Bourque, who is tied with Brendan Gallagher for Canadiens playoff lead with three goals. "He's been around the net all series. For him to get one, a big goal, everybody's happy for him."
Pacioretty can be hard on himself when things aren't going well, and he seems fully aware of what the media is saying and writing about him when he goes into a dry spell. Earlier in the season, he pointed to someone calling him a perimeter player on television as the reason he was motivated to go on a scoring spree shortly afterward.
He didn't want to get any more motivation like that in these playoffs.
"I wanted to make sure it wouldn't be a story and wouldn't change the series," he said.
Pacioretty wrote his own story of his first playoff goal instead. And it was a memorable one.