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Briere gives another vintage playoff performance

by Arpon Basu

TAMPA -- Daniel Briere did it again.

One of the top Stanley Cup Playoff performers of his generation, Briere was a constant threat in his first postseason game in a Montreal Canadiens uniform and set up an overtime goal by Dale Weise in a 5-4 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round Series on Wednesday night.

The assist gave Briere 110 points in 109 career playoff games.

"I thought I had some chances where I could've closed the game," Briere said. "So you just have to stay focused. I had the feeling that something good was going to happen. Our line had too many scoring chances that at some point we were going to get a good result."

Briere won a battle for the puck behind the Lightning net and sent a pass to a wide open Weise in front, who buried a one-timer behind Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback to seal the game.

When Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin signed Briere to a two-year, $8 million contract after his contract was bought out with the Philadelphia Flyers, one of his biggest arguments in favor of the signing was that Briere was a proven playoff performer.

It took Briere one postseason game to make his general manager look very good.

"I thought he was awesome tonight," Weise said. "He's a guy that I grew up as a little kid watching him play, and he just raises his level in the playoffs and you saw that tonight. He was creating offense all over the ice. He's so easy to play with. A couple times I lose the puck and he's just right in the right spot and he's just such an easy guy to play with."

Briere's line with Weise and rookie Michael Bournival were able to consistently spend shifts in the Tampa Bay zone, creating scoring chances and keeping the play far away from the Canadiens' end of the ice.

Part of the reason for that success is the fact the line was matched up with Tampa Bay's fourth line, but another big part was that Briere looked more engaged and was competing for pucks and space all night.

"It was an excellent reward for them because they played an excellent game," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said of his fourth line. "They deserved to score the winning goal."

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