BOSTON — P.K. Subban said it best: When your goaltender stands on his head for you, you simply have to find a way to pick him up.
That’s what Montreal did against the Bruins on Thursday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Carey Price was superhuman for the Canadiens, and the Canadiens repaid him in the form a 4-3 double-overtime win at TD Garden.
“Well, that’s leadership, you know?” said Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien. “We’ve got some young leaders in our group — talking about Carey Price, P.K. Subban, [Max] Pacioretty, [David] Desharnais. But they’re all surrounded with older veterans and leaders.
“One thing I always ask our players: Make sure, whether it’s your first year or you’ve been in the league for 15 years, you’ve got to be a leader the way you handle yourself, the way you play. I felt like P.K. had a really solid game tonight for us.”
Then, of course, there was Price, who faced a 51-shot barrage from the Bruins and came through over and over again.
The Bruins are not a team that sits back. They’re heavy, they’re physical, and as evidenced by their performance in Game 1, they never give up. They constantly apply pressure, but during those sequences where it seemed like one of their shot attempts just had to go in — because how could any goaltender keep stopping that many pucks? — Price did just that. He kept stopping them. He kept coming through.
“Carey gave us a chance to win tonight,” said forward Brian Gionta. “It wasn’t our best game. He held us in, he made some huge saves for us. We’re fortunate to come out, and it’s a big win for us.”
There was the acrobatic save on David Krejci’s backhand attempt in the first overtime. There was his flat-out robbery of Brad Marchand’s OT bid from the left circle. There was the stop at the post as Carl Soderberg tried to jam it in in the extra frame.
The Bruins threw everything they had at him. Literally everything. And when it mattered most in those two extra frames, Price stopped everything.
“It was a battle,” Price said. “It was exactly what we were expecting, and we just gutted it out. It was a hard-fought game that could have gone either way.”
Boston had opportunities to win on Thursday night — far more opportunities than the Canadiens. The Bruins outshot the Habs 51-33, and while Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask made some acrobatic saves akin to those of Price, he couldn’t stop Subban’s bomb of a shot from the point — twice — on the power play.
Subban finished with two of Montreal’s four goals, but he was quick to attribute the win to a team effort.
“When we get an opportunity like that — two power plays — I just try and be the difference and try and put the puck on net,” Subban said. “I thought our first power play -- I don’t even think we got a shot. I got the puck in the slot, [Andrei Markov] made a good pass. Let’s be honest, faceoffs are key. When you win a big faceoff like that – I think it was Davey [Desharnais] who won it. He was great all game. Lars [Eller] was great as well. [Tomas Plekanec], [Brandon Prust] — that’s the difference in the game.
“If we don’t win the faceoff, then we don’t even get that shot. Between all of our centermen and Carey Price, I thought that they were huge for us today.”
The Canadiens weren’t perfect on Thursday. They got out to an early 2-0 lead, then they let the Bruins crawl all the way back in the beginning of the third — first, on a Reilly Smith shot through a screen, then on a Torey Krug rocket from the left circle.
The Canadiens kept battling. They staked out to a 3-2 lead with just under eight minutes left in regulation as Francis Bouillon beat Rask on a one-timer from the left circle. But they squandered that lead when Johnny Boychuk netted a slapshot with less than two minutes left in regulation.
Both teams were resilient. Both teams battled. Montreal was the one that capitalized on some prime power play opportunities in order to come out on top. And in the end, it doesn’t really matter how many opportunities you miss if you net the one that matters most.
“[Price] played well,” Krug said. “He made the saves that he needed to win the game, and we had a lot of opportunities, a lot of pucks that were laying around him, and we didn’t do a great job of making sure our sticks were heavy around their net. Their defensemen were picking our guys up, and it seemed like it was a little bit too easy for them. But that’s just how the game goes sometimes, and it’s disappointing, but we’ve got to move on.”
As it often does in the playoffs, Game 1 came down to which team could capitalize at the final hour. Both teams had their chances. The Canadiens buried the chance that mattered the most, and that was the difference on Thursday.
A win felt good -- especially on Boston's home ice -- but throughout this series, the Canadiens are expecting more of what they saw on Thursday. They are expecting a battle.
“It’s great that we won,” Subban said, “but listen: I have played against these guys more than a few times over the past couple of years and in the playoffs. The one thing I can tell you is this is a resilient team. That’s not something that you can say about every team, but against these guys, I have to give them credit. They always battle back. They always find a way to persevere.
“Tonight, it feels good to be the team that found the way to get it done.”