KANATA – There’s something about the playoffs that brings out the best in Dale Weise.
On Sunday night, Weise played the role of postseason hero to perfection, scoring the game-tying goal with just under six minutes remaining in regulation time before tallying the overtime-winner to lift the Canadiens to a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. With the win, Michel Therrien’s troops assumed a 3-0 series lead, pushing Dave Cameron’s contingent to the brink of elimination.
“I’m pretty happy. I had some good chances early in the series that I thought I should have scored on. Getting a couple of goals was big for us. I thought Ottawa played an unbelievable game. Good for us for sticking with it and finding a way to win,” offered Weise, who beat Senators netminder Craig Anderson at the 8:47 mark of the extra frame with the decisive marker. “It was a great play by my linemates [that started it]. I was just trying to keep it short-side so I didn’t rip it around the boards if I missed the net. It just managed to go in.”
It wasn’t the first time the Winnipeg native has come up huge for his childhood team at the biggest time of the year. Weise’s dramatic overtime goal in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last season against the Tampa Bay Lightning kick-started the Canadiens’ remarkable run all the way to the Conference Finals. The reigning Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy recipient also added another game-winner against the Boston Bruins in Round 2, albeit in regulation time.
“This one is probably number one for me, though. My overtime goal last year in Tampa was pretty special for me, but I just think the importance of this game in the series right now is as big as it gets. Getting that one late and then getting the winner is big. That feels pretty good,” explained Weise, who amassed a career-high 10 goals, 29 points and a plus-21 differential in 79 games with the Canadiens during the 2014-15 campaign. “These are the ones you’re scoring when you’re playing street hockey. You’re not scoring a regular season goal in the 40th game of the year. You’re scoring the OT winner in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to win the game. I’ve replayed that moment a couple of times on my street growing up.”
It was the perfect ending to a game that really was being dictated by the Senators early on. Ottawa was dead set on imposing themselves physically from the outset, outhitting the Canadiens by a 27-16 margin through 20 minutes of play. That didn’t change anything in the way the CH went about their business, sticking to their game plan and going on to outshoot the Senators 40-22 the rest of the way.
“We just stuck with it. We didn’t allow ourselves to get frustrated. We just kept working and working, and we got the bounce that we needed. Dale came up with a couple of big goals for us. We’ve just got to stick to that recipe. Hopefully, we keep finding success,” mentioned Carey Price, who made 33 saves in Sunday night’s victory, including seven stops in overtime alone. “They definitely came out hard. They were a desperate team. Playing their first game at home in the playoffs, they played an excellent first period. I thought we responded the right way in the second and the third, though.”
That’s for sure. The Canadiens simply refused to be intimidated on a night when they had an opportunity to take complete control of the series in hostile territory.
“That’s what wins you hockey games in the playoffs. We often talk about the so-called “star” players on the team stepping up and making a difference, but if you look at all of the Stanley Cup winning teams over the past few years, they’ve all got guys on the third and fourth line that contributed at some point and scored some big goals or created big goals. We’re getting that right now. That’s big for us,” praised P.K. Subban, who registered eight shots on goal and six hits while logging just over 33 minutes of ice time in Game 3. “Fortunately, we’ve got Dale Weise on our team. He stepped up with two big goals.”
Big goals aside, it’s safe to say Weise means a lot to this group. His teammates simply can’t say enough about him – and with good reason.
“He’s probably the most liked guy in the room. That’s translated on the ice. The guys are so happy for him when he has success. He gives it his all every shift. I’m so happy for him,” offered Max Pacioretty, whose squad will go for the series sweep on Wednesday night in the nation’s capital after spending a few days in Mont-Tremblant. “It’s definitely a great feeling. Anderson played such a strong game. It was tough to imagine anything getting by him. We had a lot of shots, but I think they didn’t give up too many good chances. At the end of the day, it’s so nice to get the win.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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