BOSTON - P.K. Subban scored in the second overtime period and Carey Price was superb in goal as the Montreal Canadiens held off the hard-charging Boston Bruins for a wild 4-3 win in the opening game of their second-round playoff series Thursday.
Subban's second power-play goal of the game came from the point through traffic at four minutes 17 seconds, silencing the sellout crowd. Matt Bartkowski was in the box for holding.
Down 2-0 after 40 minutes, Boston came on strong in the third to force overtime.
Boston threw everything it had at Price, who kept the Canadiens in it while extending the wild ride of a game. Price combined brilliance with a little luck in holding back the rampant Bruins.
"It was a battle," said Price. "It was exactly what we were expecting. We just gutted it out. It was a hard-fought game that could have gone either way."
A surging Boston nearly won it in the first overtime when a puck leaked through Price's pads but somehow deflected off the post through the crease. A pad save by Price saved the day later in the period and the sprawling Montreal goalie robbed David Krejci on a backhand from in close minutes later.
Boston outshot Montreal 14-6 in the first overtime period for a 50-29 overall edge. The final count was 51-33.
"This is just Game 1 here. You don't get frustrated after just one game," said Boston head coach Claude Julien. "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. I thought we carried the play for the most part."
The second overtime opened with Boston's Daniel Paille in the box for tripping but the Habs failed to take advantage. Rask had to be sharp soon after though to glove a Tomas Plekanec shot from the slot.
It had looked like veteran defenceman Francis Bouillon's knuckleball goal at 12:09 of the third would be enough to help the shell-shocked Canadiens stave off the Boston comeback as Montreal went ahead 3-2.
But the Bruins continued to throw everything at the Habs and Johnny Boychuk's blast from the point with 1:58 remaining continued Boston's tsunami-like late rally.
Reilly Smith and Torey Krug had scored early third-period goals to pull Boston even at 2-2 before Bouillon's shot from the top of the faceoff circle, on a rare Montreal attack in the period, handcuffed Rask. It was just the third career playoff goal for the 38-year-old Bouillon.
Boston outshot Montreal 14-6 in the third and 36-23 over three periods.
Subban and Rene Bourque scored in the first and second periods for Montreal, which made the most of its offensive opportunities while riding the broad shoulders of Price against a Boston team that spent much of the night on attack without much to show for it.
Price made a string of key saves, including some keys stops late in the game — a few of which he didn't know too much about.
It was a nail-biting finale, however, as Boston turned the screws on the Canadiens.
Smith finally beat Price on Boston's 24th shot, firing a shot from near the boards through the legs of a Habs defenceman and through two players tangled up in front of the Montreal goal at 2:44 of the third period.
Subban went to the box for interference 34 seconds later but the Canadiens survived. Only briefly, however.
A trailing Krug, on a nice setup from Milan Lucic as his linemates crashed the goal, beat Price with a slapshot at 6:30 on Boston's 25th shot.
Montreal was living dangerously as Bruins circled Price's goal like sharks. Lucic missed a near open goal midway through the third only to see Bouillon score at the other end as Montreal crashed the next and the puck found its way back to the defenceman.
Both teams were well rested coming in.
The Canadiens were off for eight days, having completed a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lighting on April 22. The Bruins' last game was April 26 when they dispatched the Detroit Red Wings in five games.
Montreal holds a 24-9 edge overall in playoff series between the two but Boston has won six of the last nine. Boston.com celebrated the history by publishing a gallery of "30 pictures of Bruins and Canadiens beating the hell out of each other."
The game, the opening salvo of the second round of the playoffs before a sellout crowd of 17,565, started at a high pace with few stoppages and the Bruins pressing after taking the ice to a sea of yellow rally towels and trademark over-the-top anthem renditions from Rene Rancourt.
Boston pest Brad Marchand, who skipped the morning skate, was back in action and looking to annoy. But Price was up for all-comers, stopping Gregory Campbell in close and making a good glove save on Smith midway as the Bruins came from all angles.
The much maligned Montreal power play connected at 11:23 of the first period with Bartkowski off for tripping. Marchand and Patrice Bergeron did their job, majestically killing off the first half of the penalty but the Habs took advantage when the two went off. Subban sent in a wrist shot through traffic for a Montreal lead that went against the run of play — and came seconds after a pair of in-close saves from Rask
It was Subban's fourth game with a point but his first goal since March 23. And it shut up the Boston fans who had been booing him from the puck drop.
Montreal was 19th over the season on the power play with a 17.2 per cent success rate, compared to third for Boston (21.7 per cent). The Canadiens went 0 for 23 over the final eight games of the season with the man advantage and scored on only two of 13 chances against Tampa.
Krug, trying to play cat and mouse with Price later in the period, hung onto the puck in the slot after a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play in the hope that the Habs goalie would make a move. But the sphinx-like Price waited him out and made the save.
Subban led all skaters with nine minutes three seconds of ice time and three hits in the first period, which saw Boston outshoot Montreal 13-10.
The Bruins continued to attack early in the second but Montreal doubled its lead on an opportunistic counter-attack after a puck bounced off Krug's foot to Bourque at centre ice. Bourque headed towards goal on a three-on-one and ripped a wrist shot through Rask at 3:38 for his fourth of the post-season.
Marchand played as if he had a chip the size of a grand piano on his shoulder, whacking Habs with his stick or offering a glove face-wash. But there was also a sandpaper side to the visitors who looked to take a piece out of towering Bruins captain Zdeno Chara at every opportunity.
At times they bounced right off the big man but Chara had a target on his back.
Boston pressure resulted in a holding penalty to Josh Gorges with 5:44 remaining in the second. Jarome Iginla had two glorious chances from in close but one was stopped by an amazing Price pad save and the other went wide. Then defenceman Dougie Hamilton rang a shot off the post and Carl Soderberg was denied.
Boston outshot Montreal 22-17 after two periods.
Boston (54-19-9) finished 17 points ahead of Montreal (46-28-8) in the regular season.
Still the Canadiens won three of the regular-season meetings between the Bruins, with one of them via shootout. The Habs won both games in Boston.
Montreal also has history on its side. The team that has won the first game of the 33 previous playoff series between the two Original Six rivals has gone on to win the series on 27 occasions.
NOTES — Montreal's Travis Moen and Boston's Daniel Paille both returned to the lineup after concussion absences ... It was the 100th career NHL playoff game for Habs captain Brian Gionta ... The sellout was the 210th straight in regular-season and playoff action at the TD Garden, a streak dating back to December 2009 ... Game 2 goes Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter