BOSTON - There wasn't much left of Daniel Briere's voice.
The veteran Montreal Canadiens forward had been turned into a cheerleader, sitting on the Canadiens bench for most of the third period of their Game 7 victory over the Boston Bruins, cooling his heels despite having set up the crucial first goal two minutes into the game.
When he finally got the tap on the shoulder from Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, after seeing the Bruins batter the Canadiens, but unable to beat Montreal goaltender Carey Price, Briere went out and banked a pass off the foot of Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara with three minutes left to deliver the 3-1 win.
The Canadiens will now face the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final with Game 1 set for Saturday at the Bell Centre at 1 p.m.
Briere, constantly battling for Therrien's confidence, played just over eight minutes, just nine shifts, but what an impact: that hard pass to Dale Weise for the critical opening goal -- the team scoring first won every game of this series -- and then the insurance goal, stunning the TD Garden crowd.
"Every player wants to participate, to be part of the team, to have the chance to help out," said Briere, who now has 115 points in 118 career Stanley Cup playoff games. "It's a role probably I'm not used to as much as I've been the past few years, but it doesn't matter. It's not about me. It's about helping out. It's about moving forward, keeping the winning streak going."
"All I was telling myself was you've got to stay ready. Even in the third period, early on I knew I wasn't going to see much ice time, but I kept telling myself to stay in the game. You never know what could happen. It could be a power play, it could be the Bruins tying the game 2-2. I might be needed. I finally had my chance and it paid off."
Briere, Price. The reawakened scoring touch of winger Max Pacioretty, who scored his second in as many games to make it 2-0.
Price spoke up between the second and third periods, after Boston veteran Jarome Iginla had made it a one-goal game with a deft deflection of a shot on the power play.
Stay the course. Live in the moment, he said.
The Canadiens gathered it all up and, somewhere in the background, used what they thought was the lack of respect shown them by the Bruins as a little extra motiviation.
"We used some of their antics to motivate us," Briere said. "It's a great feeling. We all saw the muscle flexing, the helmet tossing, the water bottle spray. They were all things that we tried to use to our advantage."
Defenceman P.K. Subban was part of the Canadiens team that lost in overtime of Game 7 in 2011. This was some sweet retribution, for the loss in 2011, for the perceived lack of respect this time around.
"Oh, it feels good," said Subban. "Any time you're moving on to the conference final it's a good feeling, but more importantly with the rivalry and against this team, listen, it comes down to respect. I think we've done a lot of great things in this league since I've been here, our team has done a lot, but we failed to get the respect that I think we deserve.
"I think we earned that. I think more importantly, especially for the guys that have been here and were there in that run in 2010 and who were there when we lost Game 7, we're just sick and tired of it. Sick and tired of people disrespecting us and not giving us the credit that we deserve. We're a good group of guys in here. We're a character group and I think we earned a lot of respect today."
Weise, who now has three goals in the playoffs, comes at it with a different perspective having joined the Habs from the Vancouver Canucks in February.
"I said when I got here this just feels like a special team. I was on Vancouver the year after they went to the Cup final, we won the Presidents' Trophy, and it's just different," he said. "There is something about this team that's just special. We're real resilient. When our backs are against the wall and we need big performances our big players show up. We got so much depth. I really like our team."
So, halfway on the road to 16 wins, what's not to like?
The Canadiens are a team finding itself, discovering it can win different ways, it can have different players be the difference and, always, there's Price to clean up the mess.