MONTREAL - After prolonged stretches of exposed nerves, unexpected turns, body blows, resurrections and usual post-whistle silliness, there is no question the Atlantic Division final deserves a Game 7.
Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty said he could feel his team would deliver Monday night and the big winger, whose game had been subjected to much criticism, helped assure there would be at least another 60 minutes of hockey in this series with a 4-0 win over the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre.
Game 7 is Wednesday night at TD Garden.
"The feeling before the game you just knew everyone was going to give everything they have and I'm sure it's going to be the same feeling before the next game," said Pacioretty, who potted 39 goal in the regular season, but who scored his first goal of the series and just his second of the playoffs Monday.
"This was the best I've seen our team play ever, since I put on this uniform. Everybody was skating, we were building off the momentum of the crowd. Everyone was backtracking. When you play the right way like that and we use our speed, it's so frustrating for a team to play against us. We're playing between the whistles. If we can find a way to do that again in Game 7, it's going to be a great game."
The Canadiens found an untapped well of intensity that led to stretches of breathtaking hockey and the discovery Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek are, indeed, still breathing.
Pacioretty and Vanek, held to just two goals between them in this series (both by Vanek on the power play in Game 2) each scored late in the second period to put the Canadiens out in front 3-0 and Vanek added the empty netter.
Pacioretty is a notoriously streaky scorer and he often gets going again by feeding off the negativity that springs up around him during one of his dry spells.
"I've been fine. I read every article written about me and it taught me how to score and I applied that to my game tonight. I think that was the difference tonight," he said when asked how he had been coping the last few days.
"That's the way it goes. I'm expected to put a tiny puck in a tiny net with everyone trying to take my head off while I'm doing it. You get a bounce and it goes in and you're a god. If that puck winds up as an icing, people are wondering why I'm stretching the zone and critiquing me for it. This game is just so funny like that. Obviously I love the pressure and it helps me get ready for every game. You've just got to wait for your bounces. A good example of that is Vanek. He lets the game come to him. He doesn't push anything. He waits for his chances and he makes the best of them. You can learn a lot from a guy like that."
Pacioretty scored with just under five minutes to go in the second period when he corralled a bouncing stretch pass from rookie defenceman Nathan Beaulieu -- playing his first Stanley Cup playoff game -- and got a step on Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara, his nemesis through the first five games of this series.
Pacioretty beat Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask with a shot between the pads to make it 2-0 and then kept a puck alive with his feet on the power play for Vanek to make it 3-0.
Canadiens centre David Desharnais said Sunday if the Habs could put pressure on Chara he would be "just another defenceman."
"Everyone is human, you know? There's no Superman out there," said Pacioretty. "Everyone has good games, everyone has bad games, in the playoffs especially, there's so much momentum. I don't want to single out one player. I can relate that to my game. You get a bounce here or there and your confidence is sky high so I'm sure it's the same with everybody playing right now."
The Bruins, meanwhile, could lament more near misses. When Boston forward Loui Eriksson's shot deflected off the crossbar with the game 1-0 nine minutes into the first period, it was the 10th post or crossbar the Bruins had hit in this series.
Canadiens centre David Desharnais made a spectacular defensive play with nine minutes left in the third, diving into the crease to knock a puck that was spinning on the goal line -- after bouncing off the post -- back out and under goatlender Carey Price.
"(It was) desperation. I'm thinking I'd rather give Carey a chance at stopping a penalty shot than a goal right there on the spot," said Desharnais. "I was kind of lucky not to push it into the net when I was diving there, I saw it, so I pulled it back."
It was that kind of night.
A little bit of everything.
Now there will be at least 60 minutes more of it.
"I can't wait for the crowd, the noise, the energy in the building," said Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban. "I can't wait to take that all away from them."
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