Canadiens strike first against Bruins with double-OT thriller

Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban is swarmed by teammates after scoring the game-winning...

Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban is swarmed by teammates after scoring the game-winning overtime goal against the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at TD Garden in Boston, May 1, 2014. (GREG M. COOPER/USA Today)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:13 PM ET

BOSTON - After a monumentally eventful opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, you had to wonder if the NHL could sustain the level of compelling hockey of the first fortnight.

The Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins are doing their best.

Two-goal lead blown?

Check.

Overtime?

Done.

Double overtime?

Of course.

The Canadiens blew a two-goal lead early in the third period and a one-goal lead with two minutes left in regulation but rallied to steal a 4-3 win at TD Garden, taking advantage of some dazzling goaltending by Carey Price and a very ordinary night for Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask, whose record against the Habs in Beantown dropped to 0-9.

Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban – reviled here – scored his second power-play goal of the game at 4:17 of the second overtime period.

It was the eighth time a team tied a game in the final two minutes and 30 seconds this post-season and the first time the team that gave up the lead won in overtime.

Boston defenceman Johnny Boychuk had tied the game 3-3 at 18:02 of the third period when his shot from the point beat a screened Price.

Montreal defenceman Francis Bouillon had given the Canadiens a 3-2 lead in the first sequence in the third period where the reeling Habs managed to get anything close to some possession time in the Bruins zone. It was engineered by post-season revelation Rene Bourque – who scored his fourth goal of the playoffs in the second period to give the Habs a 2-0 lead – as he hastened Boston forward David Krejci into a turnover. With the Bruins collapsing around Rask, Montreal captain Brian Gionta fired the puck out to Bouillon at the left point and his wrist shot found the top corner to Rask’s glove side.

Subban had opened the scoring on the power play in the first period and Bourque’s goal made it 2-0, but the Bruins gathered momentum and tied it on goals by Reilly Smith and Torey Krug.

There was an interesting development for the Habs, who could count on four lines against the Tampa Bay Lightning in their opening-round sweep. Canadiens coach Michel Therrien juggled his lines as the evening went on, dropping prized trade deadline acquisition Thomas Vanek to the fourth line. Vanek looked like he was labouring at times and his place on the first line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty was taken by Dale Weise for a number of shifts.

The modified fourth line – Vanek with Daniel Briere and Travis Moen – was on the ice when Krug tied the game 2-2 at 6:30 of the third period.

Most of the game belonged to Price.

One of the things he has been working on with goaltending coach Stephane Waite has been a quieter presence in the net, less movement, working in a smaller space. It is a style that seems to reflect Price’s imperturbable demeanor. It’s like his personality – at least the one he shows in his public moments – intentionally restrained, but flecked with moments of cleverness if you take the time to listen closely.

Price was at this best during a penalty to Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges three-quarters of the way through the second period.

The Bruins had the best power play in the first round, snapping along at a remarkable 37.5 percent clip. The ability to score with the man advantage has been a challenge for the Bruins in the post-season, but they have enjoyed success since moving big defenceman Zdeno Chara to a position in front of the opposition net.

His 6-foot-9 frame presents the obvious challenge for an opposing goaltender. It’s difficult to see around him and his pterodactyl-like reach with the longest stick in the NHL makes him an effective battler for loose pucks around the blue paint.

With Chara posting up in the slot, Price started the Bruins power play with a powerful slide to his right to get a pad on a shot from the circle by Jarome Iginla. Bruins defenceman Dougie Hamilton unleashed a heavy shot that rang off the post to Price’s left. He blocked another shot that found its way through traffic.

Bruins forward Carl Soderberg had an open side to Price’s right, but got twisted up and the puck slid harmlessly by the post.

The Canadiens had opened the scoring in just about the worst way possible from the standpoint of the Bruins faithful with Subban, who had been described as “despicably villainous” in the Boston Herald before the series, beating Rask with a wrist shot from the point on a Montreal power play at 11:23 of the first period.

Subban’s shot found the top corner on Rask’s glove side with Briere working the front of the net.

Bourque, meanwhile, made it 2-0 at 3:38 of the second after an uncharacteristically blatant turnover by the Bruins in the neutral zone. Krug tried to take a pass off his skate, but had it carom to Bourque, who touched it to Montreal forward Lars Eller, who snapped it back.

Bourque burst in on the right wing and snapped a shot between Rask’s pads.

After the Canadiens’ morning skate, Bourque had spoken about the Canadiens trying to build off their four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round.

“I don’t think a lot of people expected us to win in four games and credit to everyone in the locker room for playing a good four games,” said Bourque. “I think everyone contributed. It was nice to get our confidence high. We’re playing well right now and we want to carry that into tonight.

“I think every round is going to get harder. Boston is a big, physical team, especially in front of their net. It’s going to be tough for us to get in front and get those second and third opportunities. I think we have to sacrifice our bodies and just get to the front of the net. We know they’re going to be physical on us, but that’s where we’re going to score our goals.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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