Carey Price, P.K. Subban ignite Canadiens to 2-1 series lead

Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban celebrates his first period goal against the Bruins during Game 3...

Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban celebrates his first period goal against the Bruins during Game 3 NHL playoff action in Montreal on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (Pierre-Paul Poulin/QMI Agency)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

MONTREAL - After a day of some mild chirping from the Boston Bruins about finding the weakness of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, the Habs made their own statement Tuesday night.

Backed by Price and another stunningly brilliant performance by defenceman P.K. Subban, the Canadiens held onto a lead -- barely -- in a 4-2 win at the Bell Centre to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.

The Canadiens victory defied a number of trends. The Bruins had won 12-straight Games 3s according to TSN's research department, a remarkable performance in a game that can set the course for a series.

The Habs did by scoring at even-strength, which had been an issue for the Canadiens in the first two games of the series. Four of the Canadiens first seven goals in the series had come on the power play, but the Canadiens didn't get their first chance with the man advantage until there was just 10 minutes left in the game.

The Canadiens had twice blown two-goal leads in this series and the Bruins had scored the third-most goals in the third period in these playoffs with 12, just two behind the Los Angeles Kings.

The Bruins made it interesting when Boston defenceman Andrej Meszaros scored to make it 3-2 with two minutes and 16 seconds left in the third period (though it looked like the puck was tipped by Bruins veteran Jarome Iginla).

It was Bruins defencemen Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton who said shooting pucks high on Price through screens was the way to go after winning Game 2 in Boston. It might have been coincidence that after making a save on Krug early in the second period, after which Krug tumbled into the corner, Price tossed the puck in Krug's direction.

Subban set up the Habs first goal and scored the second on a brilliant breakaway out of the penalty box, electrifying the crowd.

This was the Canadiens best all-round game of the series.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien had stressed improving the team's neutral zone play in Monday's practice, bringing his team over to the whiteboard three or four times to make a point. There was an emphasis on back pressure from the forwards and making it tougher for the Bruins to make effective entries into the Canadiens zone.

The Canadiens were much better Tuesday night with the result the Bruins looked a lot more ordinary at even strength, where they had enjoyed a pretty good edge in play.

The Canadiens opened up a three-goal lead, all with 5-on-5 goals, equalling their output in the first two games of the series.

Subban dazzled in a stretch of a little over four minutes long in the first period. It started when he made a good read down near the right hashmark in the Bruins zone, getting the puck back out to the point to winger Thomas Vanek. Vanek wired a diagonal pass that cracked onto the stick of Montreal's Tomas Plekanec to the right of Rask.

Plekanec was left with the open net as Rask dove back across the crease with his stick extended in a vain attempt to stop Plekanec's shot into the top corner for a 1-0 lead.

Subban then attempted to put a thumping on Bruins winger Reilly Smith as the skated down the wing in front of the benches. Subban loves that check with his ample derriere and he had Smith lined up, catching him with his arm across the Bruin's chest.

Vanek was supplying the back pressure on the play and got caught up in the hit's aftermath. It looked like his right leg got tangled up under Subban as the three players crashed to the ice. Vanek left the game, limping to the Montreal dressing room, but returned for the start of the second period.

Subban wound up with a roughing penalty and exploded from the box as Montreal's Lars Eller brought the puck out of the Canadiens zone. Eller spotted Subban breaking away and put the puck on his stick. Subban dropped his shoulder, froze Rask and then snapped in a shot to the glove side at 14:44 causing an already electric Bell Centre to explode with noise.

He galloped out of the Bruins zone, dropping to one knee and pumping the air.

The Canadiens pushed their lead to 3-0 at 13:52 of the second period after some solid work by Price in the Montreal goal. Montreal defenceman Mike Weaver stuck out his left foot to block a shot in the slot and the puck caromed to Canadiens centre Daniel Briere.

He spotted winger Dale Weise bursting up the middle. Weise broke in and beat Rask with a shot through the pads to give either team its first three-goal lead of the series.

The Bruins cut it to two goals with a couple of minutes to go in the second period after the Habs lost a draw in their own zone and Boston centre Patrice Bergeron executed about as good a deflection as you're going to see, getting his stick on a shot by Krug and beating Price high to the glove side.

Lars Eller scored into an empty net to seal the win.

Game 4 is Thursday night at the Bell Centre.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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