MONTREAL -- P.K. Subban does a lot of things extremely well, but one of his most underrated skills is manipulating the spotlight.
Whenever attention appears to be turning toward the difficulties of his team, the Montreal Canadiens defenseman will say or do something that will force the spotlight to be turned squarely upon him. Once he does that, he usually rises to the occasion. Saturday at Bell Centre was the latest example.
Subban knew exactly what he was doing when he suggested following Montreal's 6-2 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series at Amalie Arena on Thursday that Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop had benefited from some luck.
The Canadiens had hit a few goal posts in the series, sure, but saying a goalie is relying on luck is so obvious it's near insulting. Every goalie relies on luck to some extent; the good ones are simply better at playing the odds.
Much like Subban is good at controlling the message.
Prior to Game 5 at Bell Centre on Saturday, Bishop was asked about Subban's comment, as was Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
The message was delivered.
"You need luck," Subban said following Montreal's 2-1 victory. "I'm just stating the obvious. He's a great goaltender. He's played well for them all playoffs."
One can only imagine if Subban's comment ever crossed Bishop's mind when he allowed a goal to Devante Smith-Pelly at 9:01 of the first period on a shot high to the short side; a very nice shot but one that Bishop probably should have stopped. Or if it did when Subban hit the crossbar and PA Parenteau rang a shot off the post in a 15-second span early in the second period.
In both cases, it's unlikely.
But it wouldn't even be worth exploring the question were it not for a play Subban made that turned Game 5 in his team's favor. It's the kind of play he has a tendency to make at this time of year.
Subban picked off a weak backhand clearing attempt by Lightning captain Steven Stamkos at the right point and had Alex Killorn bearing down on him hard. Most defensemen would have made the safe play, gotten the puck deep and lived to play another day. Not Subban.
He faked Killorn to the inside and carried the puck along the wall, where Stamkos was waiting for him. Just as he was arriving, Parenteau was gliding high into the slot, where he one-timed Subban's pass off the crossbar and, this time, into the net to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead with 4:07 to play in regulation.
Subban, in what has become typical for him, credited Parenteau for correctly reading the play rather than himself for making it. In a sense he's right, because there are not many forwards who would have guessed what Subban was going to do in that situation.
"I kind of knew he was going to do that and it worked out pretty good," Parenteau said with a grin before deadpanning, "He's a good player."
When things are going badly for the Canadiens, Subban loves to talk about himself. Sometimes you can't get him to stop. When things are going well, as they are right now even though the Canadiens still face a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 6 at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, Subban deflects praise to his teammates.
He spoke after Game 5 of how well the Canadiens have played their system in this series, a system that has been a source of criticism all season in spite of how successful it's been. It was a subtle shout-out to his coach, Michel Therrien, who everyone has assumed for years has a bad relationship with his best defenseman, and who, unprompted, credited Subban on the Parenteau goal after the game.
"Our system works really well when we force turnovers," Subban said. "If we can't force turnovers, then it looks like we never have the puck. So a lot of things start with our forecheck, but you can't just put in on the forwards … It's not just one thing; it's many different things. But when we play our system the way we want to, you should be forcing turnovers, and when we are forcing turnovers there's not a team in this League, I think, that can play with us."
The Canadiens are playing their system well now while preparing for a return trip to Tampa with their season on the line. Subban wanted to make sure that was clear to everybody.
Including the Lightning.