BOSTON - With just three points separating them from the Bruins in the standings, the Canadiens knew they'd be in for a battle on Monday night in Boston. And a battle, they got.
Going down by a goal early on the road against a team doing everything they can to pad their lead over you in the Atlantic division is never easy. And when that team happens to be the big, bad Boston Bruins, your longtime foe, the task becomes that much more daunting.
Nicolas Deslauriers likely knew that, which might explain why he dropped the gloves with Kevan Miller in the first. It was a duel which would help him earn the honor of wearing the cape following the Canadiens' 3-2 overtime win over the Bruins due to the momentum-shifting effect the fight had on his teammates.
"We scored right afterwards. He took on a pretty good fighter on the other side and he wanted to create a spark," explained head coach Claude Julien. "That's exactly what happened. The guys appreciated it, and so did the coaches."
The equalizing goal came from Brendan Gallagher - his team-leading 18th of the season. Gallagher was parked in his usual spot in front of the net and was in perfect position to redirect a Jeff Petry shot from the point past Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask.
Video: MTL@BOS: Gallagher tips in equalizer at the doorstep
The game would remain tied until Paul Byron scored a spectacular shorthanded goal late in the middle frame with Victor Mete in the box to put the Habs ahead. We'll just allow the speedy Habs forward to describe how it all went down himself:
"I just saw the puck hit the stanchion and it went in between their half-wall guy and Bergeron at the top. I just chipped it by him. I won the race to the puck," Byron said of the goal, which was the Canadiens' second shorthanded marker in as many games. "I know the backchecker is going to try and pick your pocket, so I tried to protect it as long as I could and get the puck up as high as I could."
Video: MTL@BOS: Byron fakes shot, backhands home SHG
Montreal would hang onto the lead for most of the rest of the game, thanks in large part to an exceptional 41-save performance from Carey Price, but with Michael Chaput in the box in the game's dying minutes, David Krejci lit the lamp to send the game to extra time.
Leave it to the terrific overtime trio of Max Domi, Jeff Petry, and Paul Byron to take care of the rest. After Domi drove into the zone and got the puck on the Boston net, Petry channeled his inner slugger and swatted the rebound into the net for his 200th career NHL point and second overtime winner of the season just 15 seconds into the extra frame.
Video: MTL@BOS: Petry bats in OT winner with backhand
"I think it was all about speed and offense," Julien explained of his decision to go with Domi, Petry, and Byron to start overtime. "When you look at the goals they scored, that's exactly it. They regrouped well to win the faceoff and from there they used their speed. We know Petry comes from a baseball family and he showed his talents tonight. We're going to count that as a home run tonight."
The rivalry factor was compounded by the desperation both teams showed for the two points and led to a playoff-like atmosphere both on the ice and in the building, something which augured perfectly well for Price, the game's first star.
"It's just the atmosphere," shared Price. "It's a great place to play hockey and I've always enjoyed the rivalry between our two teams."
Video: Carey Price on beating the Bruins in Boston
As for the suggestion that the veteran netminder might be playing his best hockey of the season, Price - who has a 1.69 goals-against average in his last six games - asserted he's feeling good, but playing great due to the help of his teammates.
"I feel like it. I think we're playing pretty well, our structure too. It's not just me out there. We're doing a pretty good job in our structure," he concluded. "It was a group effort tonight."