After back-to-back losses, the resilient Montreal Canadiens got up off the mat on a manic Monday evening inside the Bell Centre, and the streets surrounding the building, to force a seventh and deciding game against the rival Boston Bruins.
The Canadiens played a desperate and effective game. Of course, there was the usual spirited effort from defenceman P.K. Subban. But there was so much more in the Canadiens impressive 4-0 win before their Ole, Ole, Ole singing faithful to send the second-round series back to Boston for a finale on Wednesday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
How about the Canadiens' power play coming through again with its seventh goal of the series? How about the play of young defenceman Nathan Beaulieu, goalie Carey Price and his 26-save shutout, as well as goals from the overdue duo of Thomas Vanek and Max Pacioretty?
How about that three-minute shift from Montreal defencemen Josh Gorges and Mike Weaver, when the Canadiens were hemmed in their own end in the second period after a Bruins' power play with Subban in the penalty box?
When he returned to the ice, Subban had to play left wing and was caught running around in his own end.
"The thing I remember is P.K. is a bad left winger," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien joked, when asked about the frantic minutes. "He's a better defenceman."
The 5-foot-9 Weaver continues to be an effective defenceman, too. He not only picked up an assist, he was a shot-blocking machine with five of the Habs' 20 blocks? Price appreciated Weaver's play. As the Canadiens left the ice after saluting the crowd, Price went over to Weaver and tapped No. 43 on the shin pads for a job well done.
David Desharnais may still be searching for his first goal of the series, but he did save a goal in the third period, when he swiped the puck off the goal-line.
Even Therrien deserved props for his gutsy decision to put the 21-year-old Beaulieu in the lineup. It was not only Beaulieu's first professional playoff game, it was his first post-season action since his Saint John Sea Dogs lost in the Memorial Cup semifinal by Michael Bournival and the host Shawinigan Cataractes on May 25, 2012.
He had not played since April 9, and that was his only game in the last three months. But he was impressive in his nine 9:36 of ice time. He moved the puck well and got a bounce with his second-period stretch pass to Pacioretty that was slowed down by the glove of Boston right wing Loui Eriksson.
That goal was a back-breaker for the Bruins because they were pressing at that time. They had the Habs on their heels. It turned out to be a key goal the allowed the Canadiens to cruise.
And cruise they did on this night because of the biggest reason they lived to see another game: they skated. They had their speed game back and just like the quickness that gave the Bruins fits in nine of the first 10 periods of the series, the Bruins were in catch-up mode for most of Game 6.
The Canadiens had speed in all three zones, but especially through the neutral zone on offence and on the forecheck.
"That was the best game I've seen our team play," Pacioretty said.
"Everybody was skating [tonight]. We're a fast team. When we play that way, we're a tough team to beat."
It remains to be seen whether the Canadiens can take this effort and duplicate it in Game 7 at the TD Garden, a building that the Bruins were as dominant in Game 5 as the Canadiens were at home Monday night.
This is the 34th playoff series between the Canadiens and Bruins and this will be a North American team record ninth time they will need a seventh game to decide a winner. Even though Bruins dependable centre Patrice Bergeron believes his team has an edge because of its playoff experience in the past few post-seasons, Therrien probably said it best in his post-game remarks.
"Anything can happen in Game 7, that's the beauty of it."
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