Some of the Montreal Canadiens were ultra determined to beat the Boston Bruins because they felt their long-time rivals "disrespected" them.
The Canadiens detested a Milan Lucic goal celebration early in the series, in which he beat his chest. They loathed Lucic's Game 5 muscle flex from the bench toward Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban.
There were times when the Canadiens gave it right back. Fourth-liner Dale Weise mocked Lucic with a similar goal celebration in Game 3. He also gave Lucic a flex in Game 6.
But the heated exchanges didn't end there. In the post-series handshake line after the Canadiens claimed the second-round series with a 3-1 win in Game 7, Weise claimed Lucic threatened him as well as teammate Alexei Emelin.
"I'm going to [bleepin] kill you next year," was what Lucic reportedly said to Weise.
Lucic was steamed to hear about Weise's remarks. Lucic stated that what is said on the ice should remain on the ice. He called Weise a baby for taking their exchange public.
Lucic also remarked it is ridiculous that how he celebrates a goal could be viewed as a sign of disrespect. But whether real or perceived, the Canadiens employed the lack of respect as inspiration to rally and win the last two games for their first trip to the East final since 2010. The Canadiens will open the conference final against the New York Rangers in Montreal on Saturday afternoon (CBC, CBCSports, 12:30 p.m. ET).
"No matter what anybody says, respect was earned tonight," Subban said.
But there was so much more to this victory than the respect matter. This was about a bunch of players who believed. This was about the impressive play of Subban.
This was about Daniel Briere coming up big with a goal and an assist in the clincher after sitting out Game 5. This was about Max Pacioretty coming alive at the right time. This was about Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin getting so excited that he met his team as they came off the ice after the win.
This was about captain Brian Gionta's diving backcheck to break up a play with the Bruins pressing in the third period. This was about Carey Price's continuation of a season to remember and his maturation as a leader.
Quiet and reserved, the 26-year-old goalie stood up in the second intermission to address his teammates. His message was to enjoy the moment.
"For me, it showed a lot of leadership," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "Carey Price is a leader for us. He's calm, competes. He wants to play those tough games. He won the gold medal. He won tonight. He wants to win."
Win is what he has done this season under new goaltending guru Stephane Waite in Montreal. Waite has urged Price to battle more in his crease, to stop more second and third opportunities. But Waite also has preached to Price to mentally stay in the moment, a mantra the Canadiens goalie uttered after his big win on Wednesday.
"Our mindset all season long has been not to look too far ahead and don't look behind," said Price, now 5-0 in elimination games if you count his three wins over Lativa, the United States and Sweden in the playoff round at the Sochi Olympics.
"It's a lot of fun. I'm really blessed to play with such great guys, not only with Team Canada, but with the guys who wear the C-H.
"We have a lot of faith with the guy next to you."
In Boston, there will be plenty of questions about the what happened to the Presidents' Trophy winners, the play of captain Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and the lack of production from Mr. Clutch, Patrice Bergeron, in the last three games of the series. How could a team so good get outscored 7-1 in the final two games?
In Montreal, well, the city has gone wild over its beloved team. It should be proud and it's going to get even crazier in the days to come.
"This was a great accomplishment from that group," Therrien said. "We just beat the best team. We showed a lot of passion."
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