MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens were the best team in the NHL this season coming from behind to win games in the third period.
They have forced themselves into a position to come from behind again by playing perhaps their worst period of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the worst possible time.
[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs. Canadiens series coverage | Zibanejad caps dominant OT for Rangers in Game 5]
In overtime of Game 5 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Rangers at Bell Centre on Thursday, the Canadiens sat back and watched the Rangers play with the puck.
Wave after wave of Rangers forwards attacked the Canadiens zone and spent entire shifts there until finally, at 14:22, Mika Zibanejad converted a feed from Chris Kreider that gave New York a 3-2 victory and a 3-2 lead in the series with a chance to clinch it at home Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
"I wouldn't say we were scared [to make mistakes]," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "I'd say they were hungrier than we were."
How is that possible considering what was at stake? How can a team come out for overtime of Game 5 of a best-of-7 series that is tied 2-2 and lack hunger knowing that nearly 80 percent of teams who win in that situation go on to win the series?
The Canadiens were outshot 10-3 in overtime, and the Rangers controlled shot attempts 25-14, which might be generous to Montreal in reflecting the territorial play in the most important period of the series and, by extension, each team's season.
"We would have liked to have had a better overtime for sure," Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher said. "We weren't able to get any sustained pressure, we were sitting back on our heels a little bit. The winner was a bit of a lucky play, but at the same time, if you get around the net time after time, something's going to happen.
"It's disappointing, but as soon as we leave the rink here, it's time for us to move on and prepare for Game 6."
The way the Canadiens played in overtime may have been disappointing to them, but it was foreseeable based on how they finished regulation time. As the game moved forward, the Canadiens ceded more and more control of the flow of play to the Rangers, especially after New York tied the game 2-2 on a goal by rookie defenseman Brady Skjei with 1:32 left in the second period.
"In the second period, especially in the second half, we started spending less time in [the offensive zone], and when we got the puck in, it came right back out," Julien said. "So we spent more time chasing the puck than we did controlling the puck. That can get tiring. So they got some energy in the second half and brought it into the overtime like we did a few games ago when we played here in that same scenario."
Despite that, the Canadiens had two golden opportunities to win the game in the third period.
Captain Max Pacioretty, the subject of heavy scrutiny in Montreal over the previous two days for his lack of goals in the series, made a great play to knock a pass out of midair and go in alone on a breakaway with a little more than seven minutes left. He shot low to the blocker side, and Henrik Lundqvist made the save.
Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Lundqvist denies Pacioretty's break
Less than two minutes later, Rangers forward J.T. Miller was called for slashing Gallagher, giving the Canadiens a power play with 5:47 remaining.
Montreal did not get a shot on goal.
If the criticism of Pacioretty and the Canadiens was intense in Montreal following their 2-1 loss in Game 4, it will only grow now that they are on the brink of elimination.
"I think we've done a pretty good job of tuning out the negativity so far," Pacioretty said. "It's important, especially in Montreal, and this should be no different. As I said, we came back a lot this year, we've shown that, and we've got an opportunity to show that here in this series."
The Canadiens won 11 games in the regular season when trailing entering the third period, the most in the NHL. But that was showing resilience and character for 20 minutes. Now they have to do it for at least 120 minutes if they want to dig themselves out of the hole they find themselves in.
It is a test.
The Canadiens have to hope they respond better to this one than the one they faced in Game 5.
"We're going to learn what type of character we have," Gallagher said. "If you don't have character, this is the time you're going to doubt yourself. If you do have character, this is the time where the belief is going to come out of our group."