Dale Weise was the unlikely hero as he scored the overtime winner 18:08 into the first extra period to give the Montreal Canadiens a 1-0 series lead in their Eastern Conference quarter final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Canadiens played a fantastic game from start to finish and I was already justifying had they lost in overtime despite dominating the puck battles, shot count and scoring chances.
This was the game that you had to win if you were Montreal. To play so well and come away with nothing would have been hard to bounce back from. But winning it allows the Canadiens to gain momentum heading into game two.
This wasn’t a perfect game from all of the players wearing Canadiens jerseys. Carey Price allowed four goals on few Tampa Bay opportunities and there were at least two he would have liked back. He made some huge saves in overtime, however, which changes the narrative somewhat. Make no mistake – he would have been the goat had Montreal lost this game.
P.K. Subban also struggled, taking a retaliatory penalty and just not seeming like the Subban we are used to seeing. He did take a knee in the first period, and it’s possible that was a factor but he was struggling before that as well.
Think about that for a second. The Canadiens outshot the Lightning 44-25, with a 56-37 (60.2%) advantage at even strength when considering all shot attempts towards the net and won the first game of the series without their best two players playing their best. That’s a pretty good omen.
Every forward line for the Canadiens impressed me. From the first line to the fourth line, each line had times where they dominated and they were a really good four line team as evidenced by the overtime winner.
Lars Eller, Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta were fantastic. Daniel Briere was also amazing. He turns what would be a good fourth line (Bournival-Weise and Prust/Moen/White) into a great fourth line. They absolutely dominated Tampa Bay’s fourth line of Nikita Kucherov, Richard Panik and Cedric Paquette who just happened to be on the ice when Weise scored the winner.
There were so many things to like about how the Canadiens played and how Michel Therrien coached. Deploying Eller-Gionta and Rene Bourque in tough situations freed up the Tomas Plekanec line to create opportunities and allowed for the first line to have one of their best games.
You would expect a bounce back from Tampa Bay – and they evened out the overtime shots at 9-9 – but you could also expect a bounce back from Price and the Canadiens to have that one win in their pocket and have taken back home ice advantage just like that.