Danny Briere's go-ahead goal with three minutes and two seconds remaining in the third period of Game 3 in New York was not the prettiest goal of the 53 he has scored in his impressive Stanley Cup playoff career.
But banking in a shot off of New York Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh from behind the goal line was another clutch play from the pint-sized, 5-foot-9 Briere, who has a habit of coming up big at this time of the year.
This is the 36-year-old Briere's fourth trip to the East final with three different teams in the past nine years. He was there twice with the Buffalo Sabres in 2006 and 2007. He was there again with the Philadelphia Flyers four years ago.
In 2010, the Flyers beat the Canadiens in five games to advance to Briere's first and only Stanlely Cup final. The native of Gatineau, Que., came under fire in that series against Montreal because, when he was an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2007, Briere chose to sign with the Flyers over the Canadiens.
Being targeted by the Habs' faithful didn't bother him. He scored the winner in Game 2 and went on to lead all playoff performers that spring with 12 goals and 30 points in 23 games.
In fact, since the 2004-05 lockout, Briere has been among the best producers in the Stanley Cup playoffs:
Rough start in Montreal
The last few seasons have not been kind to Briere. A father to three sons, he went through a divorce. He lost his mother at age 63 to a brain hemorrhage two years ago. Eleven months ago, the Flyers decided to cut ties with the fan favourite when he became one of their two compliance buyouts.
He signed a two-year, $8-million US deal with the Canadiens last July and his move to Montreal was been rough. He suffered a concussion in his 12th game. He never really got on track. He was a healthy scratch a few times.
But Briere knows what the playoffs are all about and his teammates have witnessed what he has meant to the younger players who are experiencing a deep playoff run for the first time.
We do know that Briere always has been there for his younger teammates. In his rookie season with the Flyers, Claude Giroux stayed with Briere. A few years later, it was teenager Sean Couturier who benefited as Briere's house guest.
In this post-season, Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien has used Briere in a fourth-line role. In Montreal's 3-2 overtime win against the Rangers on Thursday, Therrien put Briere between left wing Rene Bourque and a struggling Thomas Vanek. The mid-game adjustment worked as Briere scored his late-game goal.
Even though he has been playing more than nine minutes less (10:27 to 19:37) than he did with the Flyers in their 2010 playoff run, Briere keeps producing.
Even if the goals are not as pretty as the springtime ones he once scored.
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